Increasing Physical Activity in Older Adults: Walking by Prescription in Primary Care

Vera Paisana Morais, Jorge Encantado, Maria Isabel Santos, Pedro Almeida, Isabel Pereira Leal, Cláudia Carvalho


Aim: The present study (PTDC/SAU-SAP/110799/2009) funded by the Portuguese Government (Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia – FCT) aimed to test the effectiveness of a behaviour based intervention combined with a cognitive based one, designed to increase physical activity levels in older adults at Primary Health Care Centres. Method: A total of 108 participants aged over 65 years participated in the study. Participants were referred by their General Practitioner (GP) and randomized by gender and marital status at the moment they started the program (single vs. couple), and allocated into one of three conditions: goal intention, action planning, action planning and coping planning. All participants received a pedometer and a logbook and were asked to register their daily number of steps for a period of 24 weeks. Study follows a longitudinal design with five assessments over a 6-month after baseline. Results: The test between subjects’ effects revealed an interaction between condition and participating in the study as single vs. couple. Older adults participating as singles walked more steps on average in the condition goal intention plus action planning and coping planning, whereas participants that entered in the study with their spouse, goal intention without any other planning intervention was the most effective intervention. Conclusion: The 24-week physical activity program based on the recent developments of behavioural-cognitive framework, has proven useful increasing older adults daily walking behaviour.


older adults; physical activity; intervention