Use it or lose it: a qualitative study of the maintenance of physical activity in older adults

Review written by Dr Mariana Wingood info

Key Points

  1. Important considerations for maintaining a physical activity program are autonomy, enjoyment, positive evaluation of the activity and physical benefits, importance of social interaction, positive feedback, motivation and self-efficacy.
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According to the 2016 Center for Disease Control report, 27.5% of adults above the age of 50 and 35.3% of adults above the age of 75 reported no leisure-time physical activity (PA) in the month preceding the survey (1). Such a lack of physical activity can lead to an increased risk of poor quality of life, morbidity, and mortality (2-5). The health consequences related to insufficient levels of activity are even more detrimental in aging adults who are undergoing age-related changes such as a decrease in strength, balance, and endurance (6).

Consequently, regular participation in PA is one of the most important interventions for older adults (7). Therefore, physical therapists should be key players in promoting and prescribing regular PA (8,9).

The authors of this study aimed to identify the facilitators and barriers to the maintenance of PA amongst older adults after taking part in a three-arm trial of time-limited community-based exercise programs (Falls Management Exercise program (FaME), or home-based exercise program (OTAGO), or usual care).

Lack of physical activity can lead to an increased risk of poor quality of life, morbidity, and mortality.
To ensure patients continue to participate in regular physical activity, barriers and potential solutions or resources need to be discussed before discharging from therapy.


Participants from the ProAct 65+ trial who completed either a 6-month intervention based on OTAGO or FaME (10) and were not diagnosed with a terminal illness were asked to participate in interviews. Participants were asked to answer questions about the

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