Motivate older people to increase physical activity


Motivating older people to leave home increases their level of physical activity, which, in turn, is beneficial for health. In a study presented in “PLOS One”, researchers from the Finnish University of Jyvaeskylae found that older people were more physically active on days on which they left home, even when using a car.

Lead author Erja Portegijs notes that this finding is hardly surprising. After all, people are more likely to use a car when travelling longer distances. “Yet, our study results show that persons traveling outside the town had less inactivity time than when they stayed within the neighbourhood,” said Portegijs. Thus, even using a car provides health-related benefits and increases the level of physical activity.

It is therefore a meaningful approach to encourage older people to leave their immediate vicinity. “However, further interventional studies would be required to determine the health benefits of such an approach,” said Portegijs.

The project involved 174 older women and men living in the Jyvaeskylae region in Central Finland. For the duration of four to seven days, the test participants were equipped with an accelerometer. In addition, they kept a daily diary recording their physical activities.


Community-dwelling older people were more physically active on days when they moved through greater life-space areas. While it is unknown whether physical activity was a motivator to leave the home, intervention studies are needed to determine whether facilitation of daily outdoor mobility, regardless of the purpose, may be beneficial in terms of promoting physical activity.

  1. Portegijs; L.Tsai; T. Rantanen; M. Rantakokko;  August 7, 2015, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0135308