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Increasing physical activity in older adults using a personalised online program and social support

Dr Stephanie Alley, Institution: Central Queensland University

2019 Postdoctoral Fellowship

Years funded: 2020-2024


The prevalence of cardiovascular disease increases with age and is 18% in Australians 65-74 years and 31% in Australians 75+ years of age. Regular physical activity is associated with a 35% reduction in cardiovascular disease risk, yet over 70% of older adults 65+ years are not meeting the recommended physical activity levels for heart health. It is important to address this to reduce the impact of cardiovascular disease, the burden of disease and health care costs, and to improve quality of life in this population.

As nearly 80% of older adults 65+ years are now using the Internet, web-based physical activity interventions hold promise to effectively reach large numbers at low cost. Web-based interventions have demonstrated good effectiveness in the general population and some of my studies have demonstrated that web-based interventions designed for the general adult population worked best in the oldest participants. Findings from focus groups I conducted in older adults also suggest that personalised web-based interventions can be well suited to older adults and emphasised the importance of a social support component to help older adults become more active.

The influence of social support has been shown to be a crucial component of behaviour change in older adults. As such, it is important to examine whether integrating a social support component would further increase the effectiveness of web-based physical activity interventions in older adults. Therefore, the proposed research aims to develop and evaluate a personalised web-based physical activity intervention specifically designed for older adults in a randomised controlled trial (RCT), examined both with and without an innovative social support component which includes social networking and team-based challenges. Findings will lead to an evidence-based physical activity intervention that will be available for dissemination in collaboration with community partners to improve heart health in older adults.

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