Adults aged 60 years and over spend most time sedentary and are the least physically active of all age groups. This early-phase study explored acceptability of a theory-based intervention to reduce sitting time and increase activity in older adults, as part of the intervention development process.
An 8-week uncontrolled trial was run among two independent samples of UK adults aged 60–75 years. Sample 1, recruited from sheltered housing on the assumption that they were sedentary and insufficiently active, participated between December 2013 and March 2014. Sample 2, recruited through community and faith centres and a newsletter, on the basis of self-reported inactivity (<150 weekly minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity) and sedentary behaviour (≥6 h mean daily sitting), participated between March and August 2014. Participants received a booklet offering 16 tips for displacing sitting with light-intensity activity and forming activity habits, and self-monitoring ‘tick-sheets’. At baseline, 4-week, and 8-week follow-ups, quantitative measures were taken of physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and habit. At 8 weeks, tick-sheets were collected and a semi-structured interview conducted. Acceptability was assessed for each sample separately, through attrition and adherence to tips, ANOVAs for behaviour and habit changes, and, for both samples combined, thematic analysis of interviews.
In Sample 1, 12 of 16 intervention recipients completed the study (25 % attrition), mean adherence was 40 % (per-tip range: 15–61 %), and there were no clear patterns of changes in sedentary or physical activity behaviour or habit. In Sample 2, 23 of 27 intervention recipients completed (15 % attrition), and mean adherence was 58 % (per-tip range: 39–82 %). Sample 2 decreased mean sitting time and sitting habit, and increased walking, moderate activity, and activity habit. Qualitative data indicated that both samples viewed the intervention positively, found the tips easy to follow, and reported health and wellbeing gains.
Low attrition, moderate adherence, and favourability in both samples, and positive changes in Sample 2, indicate the intervention was acceptable. Higher attrition, lower adherence, and no apparent behavioural impact among Sample 1 could perhaps be attributable to seasonal influences. The intervention has been refined to address emergent acceptability problems. An exploratory controlled trial is underway.