Research Study Abstract

Promoting physical activity among community groups of older women in socio-economically disadvantaged areas: randomised feasibility study

  • Published on April 25, 2019

Insufficient physical activity (PA) is a major public health issue. Whilst PA is an important contributor to disease prevention, engagement in PA decreases with age, particularly among women in socio-economically disadvantaged areas. Research using existing support networks to engage ‘hard to reach’ populations in PA interventions is sparse. We developed and tested the feasibility of a PA-promoting intervention for older women within existing community groups in socio-economically disadvantaged areas.

The Medical Research Council guidelines for complex interventions were used to guide the intervention’s development. We recruited participants (n = 40) from older (aged ≥50 years) women’s groups from four different community centres. A 12-week programme was delivered during existing sessions, informed by Social Practice Theory. The sessions provided education about PA, social support in the form of a PA ‘buddy’, group discussion and follow-up telephone calls, as well as printed information about local opportunities to participate in PA. The main uncertainties tested were rates of participant recruitment, retention, and completion of assessments of PA by accelerometry and of mental health using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). Intervention acceptability was assessed by questionnaire, and focus group interviews elicited participants’ views about the intervention. Qualitative data were subjected to framework analysis.

The recruitment rate was high; 87% (n = 40/46) of women consented to participate, and 78% (n = 31) attended all education sessions. Uptake of follow-up telephone calls and PA ‘buddies’ was low. Few participants provided valid accelerometer data, but 63% (n=25) completed the HADS questionnaire at all time points. The printed materials and education sessions were viewed positively; telephone calls and ‘buddy’ support were not valued. Participants believed that organised group activities would lead to increased PA engagement, and whilst participants disliked wearing a waist accelerometer, they thought that regular PA feedback would facilitate necessary goal-setting.

High recruitment and retention rates suggest that use of existing social support groups is an acceptable and attractive method of delivering a PA intervention to this population. A randomised controlled trial of the intervention appears feasible, but its design requires refinement of the social support component, facilitation of goal-setting and reconsideration of the assessment of PA.


  • Emma R. Lawlor 1
  • Margaret E. Cupples 1,2
  • Michael Donnelly 1
  • Mark A. Tully 1,3


  • 1

    UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health (Northern Ireland), School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast, Clinical Sciences Block B, Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, BT12 6BA, Northern Ireland, UK

  • 2

    Department of General Practice and Primary Care, Queen’s University Belfast, 1 Dunluce Avenue, Belfast, BT9 7HR, Northern Ireland, UK

  • 3

    School of Health Sciences, Institute of Mental Health Sciences, Ulster University, Shore Road, Newtownabbey, BT37 0QB, Northern Ireland, UK



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