Physical function is an important factor in keeping older adults independent. Prolonged sedentary time in older adults has been linked with reduced function and frailty in epidemiological studies. Yet, there are few published interventions aimed at reducing sedentary behaviour (SB) in frailer older adults and the effects on physical function are uncertain.
This pilot study evaluated the effect of a SB reduction intervention (Stomp Out (Prolonged) Sitting – (SOS)), combining three motivational sessions with SB and physical function feedback, on physical function and SB in older adults living in sheltered housing.
Participants aged 65yrs and older were recruited and randomized into 2 intervention groups. On a monthly basis over 3 months they had face-to-face 40 min motivational sessions based on the Transtheoretical Model, including functional testing feedback. The activPAL (AP) group had printed feedback of their SB at motivational sessions only. The (activPAL-VTaP) (VT) group had the addition of real-time feedback, via a vibrational feedback function, which activated when they sat for a self-selected period of time. Total sedentary time, patterns of SB, physical function and outcomes of health and well-being were recorded. Outcomes were analysed by mixed model analysis.
Twenty three participants started the SOS intervention, 13 completed to the follow-up period. Health and family issues led to high attrition in this frail population. Despite randomization, there were differences in function between groups at baseline. Timed Up and Go and Sit to Stand scores improved significantly in both groups. There were, however, no significant changes in total sitting or patterns of accumulating SB. The VT group showed a tendency to accumulate shorter bouts of sedentary time.
Motivational interviewing alongside functional test feedback, visual and real-time feedback on SB improved physical function over the 10 week SOS intervention in frailer older adults living in sheltered housing. Changes in total sitting time or patterns of SB were not significant. This pilot study suggests that sit to stand transitions to break prolonged SB may help reduce frailty and functional decline in people who are often unable to take part in traditional higher energy exercise programmes. These functional improvements should be investigated in a definitive RCT.