Choose to Move: A Health Promoting Physical Activity Intervention Can Also Enhance Social Connectedness
Background: Despite the well-known health benefits of physical activity (PA), older adults are the least active citizens. Older adults are also at risk for loneliness. Given that lonely individuals are at risk for accelerated loss of physical functioning and health with age, PA interventions that aim to enhance social connectedness may decrease loneliness and increase long-term PA participation. The objectives of this mixed-method study are to: (1) evaluate whether an evidence-based PA
... e-based PA intervention (Choose to Move; CTM) influenced PA and social connectedness differently among self-identified 'lonely' versus 'not lonely' older adults and (2) describe features of CTM that promote social connectedness.Methods: Two community delivery partner organizations delivered 56 CTM programs in 26 urban locations across British Columbia. We collected survey data from participants (n=458 at baseline) at 0 (baseline), 3 (mid-intervention) and 6 (post-intervention) months. We conducted in depth interviews with a subset of older adults at baseline (n=43), mid-intervention (n=38) and post-intervention (n=19).Results: PA increased from baseline to 3 months in lonely and not lonely participants. PA decreased from 3-6 months in lonely participants; however, PA at 6 months remained above baseline levels in both groups. Loneliness decreased from baseline to 3 and 6 months in participants identifying as lonely at baseline. Features of CTM that influence social connectedness include: Activity coach characteristics/personality traits and approaches; opportunity to share information and experiences and learn from others; engagement with others who share similar/familiar experiences; increased opportunity for meaningful interaction; and accountability.Conclusion: PA interventions that focus on social connectedness, through group-based activities can improve the health of older adults by addressing both loneliness and PA. Building social connectedness within a PA intervention for older adults may support long term changes in PA behaviours.