Physical activity and associated medical cost savings among at-risk older adults participating a community-based health & wellness program.
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INTRODUCTION: Physical activity declines are seen with increasing age; however, the US CDC recommends most older adults (age 65 and older) engage in the same levels of physical activity as those 18-64 to lessen risks of injuries (e.g., falls) and slow deteriorating health. We aimed to identify whether older adults participating in a short (approx. 90-minute sessions) 20 session (approximately 10-weeks) health and wellness program delivered in a community setting saw improvements in physical activity and whether these were sustained over time. METHODS: Employing a non-equivalent group design, community-dwelling older adults were purposely recruited into either an intervention or comparison group. The intervention was a multicomponent lifestyle enhancement intervention focused on healthy eating and physical activity, including structured physical activity exercises within the class sessions. Two groups were included: intervention (survey group: n = 65; accelerometer subgroup: n = 38) and the comparison group (survey group: n = 102; accelerometer subgroup: n = 55). Measurements were made at baseline and approximately three months later to reflect immediate post-treatment period (survey, accelerometer) with long-term follow-up 6 months after baseline (survey). Adults not meeting the physical activity guidelines (i.e., 150/75 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity or MVPA) were targeted for subgroup analyses. Paired t-tests were used for bivariate comparisons, while repeated measures random coefficient models (adjusting for propensity scores using inverse probability of treatment weighted (IPTW) estimation) were used for multivariate models. Estimated medical costs associated with gains in physical activity were also measured among survey respondents in the intervention group. RESULTS: The accelerometer group contained 38 participants in the intervention group with 71% insufficiently active at baseline and 55 participants in the comparison group with 76% insufficiently active at baseline (<150 weekly MVPA minutes). The survey group contained 65 participants in the intervention group with 73.85% insufficiently active at baseline and 102 participants in the comparison group with 76.47% insufficiently active at baseline. In paired t-tests with the accelerometer group, a moderate effect size (-0.4727, p = 0.0210) indicating higher MVPA was found for intervention participants with <150 weekly MVPA at baseline. In fully adjusted analyses using propensity score matching, among the subjectively measured physical activity (survey) group, there was a differential impact from baseline to 6-month post among the intervention group with an improvement of 160 minutes among all study participants (p < .0001) versus no difference among the comparison group. For those insufficiently active at baseline, there was an improvement of 103 minutes among intervention (p < .0001) and 55 minutes among the comparison (p < .0001) with the improvement of the intervention significantly greater than that among the comparison (p = 0.0224). Further, among those insufficiently active at baseline there was a relative cost savings from baseline to 6-months over and above the estimated cost of the intervention estimated between $143 and $164 per participant. DISCUSSION: This intervention was able to reach and retain older adults and showed significant MVPA gains and estimated medical cost savings among more at-risk individuals (baseline <150 MVPA). This intervention can be used in practice as a strategy to improve MVPA among the growing population of older community-dwelling adults.