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Publication - Dr Gemma Morgan

    A pilot randomised controlled trial of physical activity facilitation for older adults

    feasibility study findings


    Morgan, G, Haase, A, Campbell, R & Ben-Shlomo, Y, 2019, ‘A pilot randomised controlled trial of physical activity facilitation for older adults: feasibility study findings’. Pilot and Feasibility Studies, vol 5.



    More people are living longer lives leading to a growth in the population of older adults, many of whom have comorbidities and low levels of physical function. Physical activity in later life can prevent or delay age-related disability. Identifying a cost-effective means of increasing physical activity in older adults therefore remains an important public health priority.

    Physical Activity Facilitation (PAF) is an intervention shown to increase physical activity in adults with depression. The PAF model was modified for a population of older adults at risk of disability. This study aimed to assess the feasibility of undertaking a definitive RCT of the PAF intervention in the target population.


    A pilot randomised controlled trial (RCT) was delivered through primary care. Patients at risk of disability and who were not meeting recommended levels of physical activity were recruited through postal invitation and direct approach in the practice waiting room. Those meeting eligibility criteria were enrolled and randomised at a 2:1 ratio to the PAF intervention and control. Behaviour change techniques were used by facilitators with participants over the telephone and face-to-face for 6 months. Outcome measures including physical function, physical activity, depression, social support, and quality of life were collected at baseline and at 6 months.


    A high proportion of patients responded to the initial invitation (68%), yet many were ineligible due to high levels of self-reported physical activity and baseline physical function. Fifty-one participants were recruited to the trial, with an average age of 74 years (range 65–89), and there were high rates of adherence and retention to the study (94% follow-up at 6 months). The majority of outcome data collected from participants was complete; however, the validated scale used to measure self-reported physical activity was associated with high levels of missing data.


    The findings of this pilot RCT suggest that it is feasible to deliver a definitive RCT of the PAF intervention in this population. Further work is required to improve the efficiency of recruitment and to minimise missing data from self-reported physical activity measures.

    Full details in the University publications repository