What works to reduce sedentary behaviour in elderly people living in the community?

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Interventions for reducing sedentary behaviour in community‐dwelling older adults

Key messages

There is not enough evidence to allow for any clear conclusions about whether programmes or policies are effective in reducing sedentary time in older adults. It is also uncertain whether these programmes or policies improve the physical or mental health of older adults.

Why did we do this review?

Older adults spend about 80% of their time being sedentary. Sedentary time is the amount of time spent sitting or lying down whilst awake. For example, sitting down watching TV is considered a sedentary behaviour. Long periods of sedentary time have been linked with an increased risk of several long‐term diseases, becoming frailer, developing disabilities, needing help with everyday activities, and early death. We wanted to know if programmes or policies intended to help older adults reduce their sedentary time are effective. We also wanted to know if these programmes or policies also provide physical or mental health benefits.

What did we do?

We searched electronic databases and relevant journals to find studies. We included any randomised study (in which people have the same chance of being given the intervention or not) that looked at policies or programmes that were designed to reduce sedentary time in older adults (aged 60 or over) living independently in the community. We compared and summarised the results of the studies and rated our confidence in the evidence, based on factors such as study methods and sizes.

What did we find out?

We found seven studies including a total of 397 older adults. All of the studies looked at ways to help individual older adults to change their sedentary behaviour. The support included a range of strategies like counselling, goal setting, and information sessions. Some of the studies used technology that records behaviour, such as activity monitors. We did not find any studies that looked at changes to the natural environment, the built environment, a person's social environment, or home environment where older adults live. We did not find any studies that looked at the effect of changing policies and laws that affect the sedentary behaviour of older adults. We did not find any studies that looked at whether the benefits and use of the programme were at least worth what was paid for them. None of the studies reported on unwanted effects.

What are the limitations of the evidence?

We have only low confidence in these findings, due to low sample sizes and because some studies were conducted in ways that may have introduced errors into their results. The findings also combined results from studies using self‐reported measures of sedentary time together with device‐based measures.

How up‐to‐date is the evidence?

The evidence is current to January 2021.