A home-based program improves physical activity and nutritional behaviour in older people

What a busy morning I’ve had spending quality time with the Elders in the Woodland. We started off with a spot of tai chi in amongst the snowdrops, followed by a pot of Rosy Lee reclining on the toadstools. I’ve been nagging them all to get up and be more active since reading more about the consequences of declining physical activity in the elderly.

It’s not just important for us all to keep exercising as we grow older but also for us to recognise how our nutritional requirements change. Nutritious foods high in fibre and low in saturated fats can help us to maintain a healthy body weight as we age.

An interesting study from Australia aimed to find out whether a low-cost, accessible, physical activity and nutrition program could improve physical activity and nutritional behaviours of insufficiently active 60-70 year olds. The Physical Activity and Nutrition for Seniors (PANS) program employed in the study concentrated on both physical activity and nutritional behaviours at the same time with the aid of a booklet. Other materials included were an exercise chart, calendar, bi-monthly newsletters, resistance band and pedometer, along with telephone and email contact by program guides.

The six-month home-based randomised controlled trial (RCT) was carried out on 478 older adults of low to medium socio-economic status. Suitable questionnaires measured outcomes on the two behaviours. The final sample consisted of 176 intervention participants and 199 controls. This is what they found:

  • The PANS intervention group demonstrated increased participation in strength exercises, walking and vigorous activity
  • They also demonstrated a significant reduction in sitting time
  • Improved nutritional behaviours were observed in terms of avoiding fat, fat intake and prevalence of fruit intake

But:

  • The data collected was self-reported by the participants
  • Although self-selection bias was minimised through randomisation, participation in the home-based intervention was entirely voluntary so some bias may still exist

The authors concluded:

A minimal contact, low-cost and home-based physical activity program can positively influence seniors’ physical activity and nutrition behaviours.

The findings have important implications for the control and prevention of overweight and obesity in the older population.

So it seems this relatively simple route to informing, motivating and encouraging older people to exercise and eat well can really work.  There’s something for everybody out there.  It doesn’t have to be too strenuous or even cost much money.  We just need to eat responsibly, get up and keep moving!  Now, what shall I plan for the Elders’ session tomorrow?  Maybe a brisk (-ish) walk to the oak tree and back followed by an energetic hunt the carrot cake (if you want a slice with your cuppa that is!).

Links:

Burke l, Lee AH, Jancey J, Xiang L, Kerr, D, Howat P, Hills A, Anderson A ‘Physical activity and nutrition behavioural outcomes of a home-baed intervention program for seniors: A randomised controlled trial‘. IJBNPA 2013 (10:14)