What factors support older people to increase their physical activity levels? An exploratory analysis of the experiences of PACE-Lift trial participants.
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BACKGROUND: Physical Activity (PA) has significant health benefits for older adults, but nearly all UK over 60's are not achieving recommended levels. The PACE-Lift primary care-based walking intervention for 60-75 year-olds used a structured, theoretically grounded intervention with pedometers, accelerometers, handbooks and support from practice nurses trained in behaviour change techniques. It demonstrated an objective increase in walking at 3 and 12 months. We investigated the experiences of intervention participants who did (and did not) increase their walking, in order to explore facilitators to increased walking. METHODS: Semi-structured telephone interviews used an interview schedule with a purposive sample of 30 intervention participants, 19 who had objectively increased their walking over the previous year and 11 who had not. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and coded independently by researchers to generate a thematic coding framework. RESULTS: Both groups confirmed that walking was an appropriate PA for people of 'their age'. The majority of those with increased walking participated in the trial as a couple, were positive about individualised goal-setting, developed strategies for maintaining their walking, and had someone to walk with. Non-improvers reported their attempts to increase walking were difficult because of lack of social support and were less positive about the intervention's behaviour change components. DISCUSSION: Walking is an acceptable and appropriate PA intervention for older people. The intervention's goal-setting components were important for those who increased their walking. Mutual support between partners participating as a couple and having someone to walk with also facilitated increased walking.