“We got more than we expected.” Exploring older people’s experience of an exercise intervention. A qualitative study.
Many older people do not reach recommended physical activity (PA) targets. We previously conducted a randomised controlled trial evaluating group (FaME) and home based (OTAGO) exercises to promote physical activity in older people (ProAct 65+ trial). This study explores trial participants’ experiences of the group and home based exercise programme, the views of their partners, family members or friends and barriers and facilitators to PA amongst older people.
5 general practices in the Midlands, UK invited previous ProAct 65+ participants to a face-to-face semi-structured interview. Trial participants were asked to identify partners, family members or friends for interviews. Interviews took place at participant’s homes. Seven of the partner, family member and friend interviews were carried out over the telephone, one interview took place at home. 30 previous ProAct 65+ participants whose ages range from 70–95 years of age and 8 partners, family members and friends were interviewed. Their data was analysed using framework analysis.
Previous ProAct 65+ participants from both the FaME classes and the OTAGO group described benefits from taking part in the ProAct 65+ trial, including feeling “good” mentally and physically and overall improvement in energy and fitness. The importance of enjoying the exercises and the social element came across for both FaME and OTAGO participants. Intervention factors; OTAGO-type PA has to fit conveniently around the activities of everyday life, or it will compete with them; pleasure drives participation whilst boredom inhibits it; and in FAME the enjoyment of the class contrasts with the boredom of the home exercises that FAME group members were also meant to do. For some, the absence of these elements presented as barriers. Other barriers include paperwork and health. these barriers also presented as motivational benefits. Generally partner, family member and friends who were interviewed saw benefits for their loved ones taking part in exercise. Largely, participants who took part in FaME classes conveyed a more positive experience and greater enjoyment. Classes were considered a key approach in ensuring that exercises were completed on a regular basis rather than exercising at home.
Despite the variance of opinion amongst the participants, all of those interviewed shared positive experiences of taking part in the ProAct 65+ trial and shared various examples of facilitators. Most barriers have the potential to be modified and will be useful to consider when looking at implementing exercise interventions that aim to increase older peoples exercise and physical activity. One implication from these findings is that PA promotion through general practice might need a menu of options: FAME for those who like getting out and socialising, OTAGO for those with other responsibilities but who can fit it into their daily lives.