Research Study Abstract

Physical Activity in Older Adults in the UK: Summary of Outcomes from Project OPAL

  • Added on July 22, 2011

Background Project OPAL (Older People and Active Living) was funded through Phase 1 of the National Prevention Research Initiative. Its primary aim was to describe the physical activity levels and patterns of adults aged 70 and over using accelerometry. Associations with deprivation of area of residence, perceptions of neighbourhood walkability, convenience and attractiveness, objectively assessed physical function, body mass index, pain and mental well-being were also addressed.

Methods Twelve primary care practices in Bristol were selected by low, medium and high deprivation, and low or high access to amenities as a sampling frame. A total of 240 adults aged 70 to 96 were recruited who were representative of the practice and national distributions of age-related BMI and level of deprivation of area of residence. Measures included 7-day accelerometry (ActigraphGT1M), the Short Physical Performance Battery, a 7-day purposes and mode of journeys log, and a range of questionnaires including the Neighbourhood Quality of Life Survey for Seniors.

Results The final sample was 125 males (mean age 77.5 yrs) and 115 females (mean age 78.6 yrs). Physical activity levels were very low with males engaging in more steps per day and moderate to vigorous (MVPA) activity than females (Davis et al., in press). Although 47% totalled over 150 minutes of MVPA per week, only 3 participants met UK recommendations because sustained bouts of at least 10 minutes rarely occurred. Lower levels of physical activity were found in areas of higher deprivation, but this was explained by differences in residents’ physical function, body mass index, and frequency of journeys away from the home (Fox et al., 2011). Regardless of where people lived or their level of function, those people who managed to get and about more frequently were more active. This effect was strongest for those whose main mode of transport was walking but also for those who relied mainly on their car. Additionally, physical activity was higher in those who reported that they live close to shops and other amenities.

Conclusions and Implications These low levels of physical activity and associations with physical function suggest that interventions are needed to promote physical activity in order to prevent decline infunction and maintain independence. AvoNet, which is a Lifelong Health and Well Being funded collaborative network arose from OPAL work and has been addressing the challenge of intervening and several proposals for programmes of delivery are currently in review.

References Davis M et al. (in press). Objectively measured physical activity in a diverse sample of older urban-living UK adults. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise. Doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181f36196. Fox KR et al. (2011). Neighbourhood deprivation and physical activity in UK older adults. Health and Place. Doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2011.01.002.