Increasing Physical Activity in Older People with Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain (iPOPP) – the views of older adults on physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic

Talk Code: 
B Bartlam
Bartlam, B1; Woodcock, C1; Chew-Graham, CA1; Healey EL, Jinks, C1
Author institutions: 
1School of Medicine, Keele University, Staffordshire, ST5 5BG, UK


Physical activity (PA) can improve pain and quality of life in those with musculoskeletal pain. While increasing PA levels is a public health priority, the mechanisms to achieve this in older adults with chronic musculoskeletal pain remain unclear. Whilst walking is the most likely way all adults can achieve recommended levels of physical activity, there is a lack of research into the effectiveness of interventions to promote it for older people with musculoskeletal pain. Compounding this is an emerging evidence-base of the negative impacts of the pandemic on people’s capacity to engage with PA. The iPOPP intervention is a theory-based behaviour change, brief intervention to increase walking and reduce sedentary behaviour amongst older people. 

The approach

A qualitative study aimed to understand the perspectives and experiences of older adults with chronic musculoskeletal pain during the COVID-19 restrictions, exploring the impact of shielding and social isolation on perceived health and wellbeing, feelings of loneliness, walking and physical activity, and usefulness of iPOPP.

Sampling: purposive sampling of up to 60 participants across age ranges, gender, levels of physical activity, and self-efficacy levels.


24 interviews have been conducted.  Preliminary thematic analysis suggests 4 dominant themes:  Disruption to structured opportunities; Adaptation of unstructured activities; Adverse mental health impacts; Coping strategies to mitigate adverse impact on perceptions of pain. Such themes appear exacerbated by environments, with people living in rural areas experiencing less effect, and by lower socio-economic status.


Further sampling will focus on urban dwelling individuals, exploring initial findings in more depth whilst allowing additional themes to emerge. Findings will identify the characteristics and circumstances of those individuals most at risk of poor outcomes and be mapped onto the Com-B model to understand how motivation, opportunities and capabilities have been impacted by the pandemic, and the implications for primary care.


Funding acknowledgement: 
This study is funded by Versus Arthritis. CJ, EH, CW and CCG are part funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) West Midlands.