Sport Sciences for Health

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 663–671 | Cite as

Semi-structured physical activity intervention in daily life: a good compromise between effectiveness and feasibility

  • Federica GilliEmail author
  • Spyros Skafidas
  • Chiara Zoppirolli
  • Barbara Pellegrini
  • Giandomenico Nollo
  • William Mantovani
  • Emanuele Torri
  • Marino Migazzi
  • Federico Schena
Original Article



As older-aged population is continuously increasing, it is essential to promote physical activity (PA) to preserve health and autonomy in daily living. Although several methods have been proposed, combining sustainability and efficacy at the same time is still a challenge.


To evaluate the effects of a semi-structured PA (SSPA) intervention including aerobic as well as strength and flexibility exercise in comparison to generic PA advice (PAAdv) in healthy older adults.


86 sedentary older adults were divided in two groups, SSPA (n = 56) and PAAdv (n = 30). Body weight (BW) and circumferences, blood pressure (BP), submaximal exercise heart rate (HR), as well as Chair Stand Test (CST), Arm Curl Test (ACT), Chair Sit-and-Reach Test (CSRT) and Back Scratch Test (BST) were performed before and after 16 weeks of intervention. SSPA group was further divided in SSPA > 500 and SSPA < 500 according to the total amount of PA performed (cut-off level of 500 MET min/week).


Overall, SSPA groups improved more than the PAAdv group on WC, HC, BP, CST, ACT, CSRT and BST. SSPA > 500 improved more than SSPA < 500 and PAAdv on CST (+ 20.2, + 11.3, + 4.5% respectively), ACT (+ 21.5, + 14.9, − 1.3%, respectively), and CSRT (+ 3.7, + 0.80, + 0.75 cm, respectively), and similarly to SSPA < 500 on BST. Submaximal HR values significantly decreased for the SSPA > 500 and PAAdv groups.


An SSPA program represents an ecological way to enhance fitness in older adults. A greater amount of SSPA (> 500 versus < 500 MET min/week) is associated with higher cardiovascular and muscular fitness benefits.


Semi-structured intervention Physical activity Active aging Functional performance 



This work was partially funded by: Italian National Center for Disease Control (CCM2013), “La medicina predittiva nella valutazione del rischio di perdita di autonomia”. The authors thank the “Università dell’età libera” of the municipality of Rovereto, “Università della terza età e del tempo disponibile” of the municipality of Trento and dott. Lino Beber for their valuable contributions to the project. We would like to thank subjects for their enthusiastic participation.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights

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.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. 1.
    Reinhardt UE (2003) Does the aging of the population really drive the demand for health care? Health Aff (Millwood) 22:27–39. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Warburton DER, Nicol CW, Bredin SSD (2006) Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. CMAJ 174:801–809. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Blair SN, Kohl HW, Paffenbarger RS et al (1989) Physical fitness and all-cause mortality. A prospective study of healthy men and women. JAMA 262:2395–2401. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Taylor D (2014) Physical activity is medicine for older adults. Postgrad Med J 90:26–32. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Nocon M, Hiemann T, Müller-Riemenschneider F et al (2008) Association of physical activity with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil 15:239–246. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Taylor A, Cable N, Faulkner G et al (2004) Physical activity and older adults: a review of health benefits and the effectiveness of interventions. J Sports Sci 22:703–725. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Tarperi C, Baraldo A, Schena F et al (2016) Resistance exercise in chronic heart failure: hemodynamic and metabolic adjustments. Sport Sci Health 12:415. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Tonni V, Cè E, Limonta E et al (2016) Fall-risk factors in hospitalized elderly: the role of adapted physical activity. Sport Sci Health 12:471. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Mena C, Fuentes E, Ormazábal Y et al (2017) Spatial distribution and physical activity: mplications for prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Sport Sci Health 13:9. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    LaCroix AZ, Guralnik JM, Berkman LF et al (1993) Maintaining mobility in late life. II. Smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, and body mass index. Am J Epidemiol 137:858–869. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Cyarto EV, Moorhead GE, Brown WJ (2004) Updating the evidence relating to physical activity intervention studies in older people. J Sci Med Sport 7:30–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Nelson ME, Rejeski WJ, Blair SN et al (2007) Physical activity and public health in older adults: recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Med Sci Sports Exerc 39:1435–1445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    World Health Organization (2010) Global recommendations on physical activity for health. World Health Organization, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2013) Adult participation in aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activities–United States, 2011. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 62:326–330Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Van Hoecke A-S, Delecluse C, Bogaerts A, Boen F (2014) Effects of need-supportive physical activity counseling on well-being: a 2-year follow-up among sedentary older adults. J Phys Act Heal 11:1492–1502. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Clark BC, Manini TM (2012) What is dynapenia? Nutrition 28:495–503. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Nogueira FRD, Libardi CA, Vechin FC et al (2013) Comparison of maximal muscle strength of elbow flexors and knee extensors between younger and older men with the same level of daily activity. Clin Interv Aging 8:401–407. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Gould M, Thorogood M, Iliffe S, Morris J (1995) Promoting physical activity in primary care: measuring the knowledge gap. Health Educ J 54:304–311. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Van Roie E, Delecluse C, Opdenacker J et al (2010) Effectiveness of a lifestyle physical activity versus a structured exercise intervention in older adults. J Aging Phys Act 18:335–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Ashworth NL, Chad KE, Harrison EL et al (2005) Home versus center based physical activity programs in older adults. In: Ashworth NL (ed) Cochrane database of systematic reviews. John Wiley, Chichester, p CD004017Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    King AC, Rejeski WJ, Buchner DM (1998) Physical activity interventions targeting older adultsaa. This paper was a background paper for the Cooper Institute Conference Series Physical Activity Interventions, an ACSM Specialty Conference. Am J Prev Med 15:316–333. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Picorelli AMA, Pereira LSM, Pereira DS et al (2014) Adherence to exercise programs for older people is influenced by program characteristics and personal factors: a systematic review. J Physiother 60:151–156. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Shephard RJ (1992) A critical analysis of work-site fitness programs and their postulated economic benefits. Med Sci Sports Exerc 24:354–370PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Ashworth NL, Chad KE, Harrison EL et al (2005) Home versus center based physical activity programs in older adults. Cochrane database Syst Rev. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Mehra S, Dadema T, Kröse BJA et al (2016) Attitudes of older adults in a group-based exercise program toward a blended intervention; a focus-group study. Front Psychol 7:1827. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Sherwood NE, Jeffery RW (2000) The behavioral determinants of exercise: implications for physical activity interventions. Annu Rev Nutr 20:21–44. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Trost SG, Owen N, Bauman AE et al (2002) Correlates of adults’ participation in physical activity: review and update. Med Sci Sport Exerc 34:1996–2001. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Ainsworth BE, Haskell WL, Whitt MC et al (2000) Compendium of physical activities: an update of activity codes and MET intensities. Med Sci Sports Exerc 32:S498–S504CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Ainsworth BE, Haskell WL, Leon AS et al (1993) Compendium of physical activities: classification of energy costs of human physical activities. Med Sci Sports Exerc 25:71–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee and others (2009) Part A: executive summary. Nutr Rev 67:114–120. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Chodzko-Zajko WJ, Proctor DN, Fiatarone Singh MA et al (2009) Exercise and physical activity for older adults. Med Sci Sport Exerc 41:1510–1530. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Rikli RE, Jones CJ (1999) Development and validation of a functional fitness test for community-residing older adults. J Aging Phys Act 7:129–161. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Buchner DM, Beresford SAA, Larson EB et al (1992) Effects of physical activity on health status in older adults ii: intervention studies. Annu Rev Public Health 13:469–488. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Cadore EL, Rodríguez-Mañas L, Sinclair A, Izquierdo M (2013) Effects of different exercise interventions on risk of falls, gait ability, and balance in physically frail older adults: a systematic review. Rejuvenation Res 16:105–114. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Hunter GR, McCarthy JP, Bamman MM (2004) Effects of resistance training on older adults. Sports Med 34:329–348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Fox CS, Massaro JM, Hoffmann U et al (2007) Abdominal visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue compartments: association with metabolic risk factors in the Framingham Heart Study. Circulation 116:39–48. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Despres J-P, Lemieux I, Bergeron J et al (2008) Abdominal obesity and the metabolic syndrome: contribution to global cardiometabolic risk. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 28:1039–1049. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Stewart KJ, Bacher AC, Turner KL et al (2005) Effect of exercise on blood pressure in older persons. Arch Intern Med 165:756. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Scheuer J, Tipton CM (1977) Cardiovascular adaptations to physical training. Annu Rev Physiol 39:221–251. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Schaible TF, Scheuer J (1985) Cardiac adaptations to chronic exercise. Prog Cardiovasc Dis 27:297–324. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Sale DG (1988) Neural adaptation to resistance training. Med Sci Sports Exerc 20:S135–S145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Cyarto E, Brown W, Marshall A, Trost S (2008) Comparison of the effects of a home-based and group-based resistance training program on functional ability in older adults. Am J Heal Promot 23(1):13–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Cress ME, Buchner DM, Questad KA et al (1999) Exercise: effects on physical functional performance in independent older adults. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 54:M242–M248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Campbell AJ, Robertson MC, Gardner MM et al (1999) Falls prevention over 2 years: a randomized controlled trial in women 80 years and older. Age Ageing 28:513–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Italia S.r.l., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Federica Gilli
    • 1
    Email author
  • Spyros Skafidas
    • 1
  • Chiara Zoppirolli
    • 1
  • Barbara Pellegrini
    • 1
    • 2
  • Giandomenico Nollo
    • 5
  • William Mantovani
    • 3
  • Emanuele Torri
    • 4
  • Marino Migazzi
    • 3
  • Federico Schena
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.CeRiSM, Research Center Sport Mountain HealthUniversity of VeronaRoveretoItaly
  2. 2.Department of Neurosciences, Biomedicine, and Movement SciencesUniversity of VeronaVeronaItaly
  3. 3.Dipartimento PrevenzioneAzienda Provinciale per i Servizi SanitariTrentoItaly
  4. 4.Dipartimento Salute e Solidarietà Sociale Provincia Autonoma di TrentoTrentoItaly
  5. 5.Centro BIOtech - Dipartimento Ingegneria IndustrialeUniversity of TrentoTrentoItaly

Personalised recommendations