A novel approach to increase physical activity in older adults in the community using citizen science: a mixed-methods study

  • Anja FreiEmail author
  • Kaba Dalla Lana
  • Thomas Radtke
  • Emily Stone
  • Nevil Knöpfli
  • Milo A. Puhan
Original article



The aims of this study were to implement a novel, community-based physical activity (PA) intervention in a Swiss town with active participation of elderly participants and to evaluate its effectiveness, feasibility, acceptability and sustainability.


The CAPACITY intervention combined important determinants of PA, used smartphone apps to provide feedback/facilitate interaction, and followed a citizen science approach to enable participants to organize walking groups. We targeted persons > 60 years from Wetzikon. Assessments took place at baseline and after 6 months, during this intervention period, and 11 months after step-wise withdrawal of the study team.


Twenty-nine persons were included in the study; 25 conducted 6-month follow-up. They had a significant increase in moderate-to-vigorous PA (p = 0.046) but not in daily steps (p = 0.331). After the intervention period, key participants took over organization, independently organized monthly get-togethers, added new walking routes and continuously recruit new participants. Eleven months after withdrawal of the study team, 61 people regularly walk in groups together.


The novel CAPACITY intervention was successfully implemented, transferred to participants and is now self-sustainable for almost 1 year in the community.


Physical activity Walking intervention Elderly Community Citizen science Long-term sustainability CAPACITY 



This study was funded by Foundation Uniscientia (UNISCIENTIA STIFTUNG) and Foundation Walder (WALDER STIFTUNG). The funding body had no role in the design of the study, the collection and analysis of the data, or the preparation of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

38_2019_1230_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 2091 kb)


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Copyright information

© Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention InstituteUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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