A randomized controlled trial into the cognitive effects of a computer-tailored physical activity intervention in older adults with chronic disease(s)

E. Volders*, R.H.M. de Groot, J.M.J. Coumans, C.A.W. Bolman, L. Lechner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background Cognitive functioning (CF) is important for wellbeing and an independent life. However, older adults with chronic diseases are at a higher risk of poorer CF levels. Although, research suggests that physical activity (PA) could play an essential role in maintaining good CF, older adults with chronic diseases have low levels of PA. PA interventions to prevent cognitive decline for this specific group exist. Yet, until now these interventions focused on a single specific chronic disease. Active Plus is a proven effective computer-tailored PA stimulating intervention focused on increasing PA in daily life for the older adult population suffering from a broad range of chronic diseases. This study tests the cognitive effects of Active Plus in older adults with chronic diseases. Methods In this RCT older adults with at least one chronic disease (>= 65 years) were allocated to the intervention group (N = 260, mean age = 74.2) or waiting list control group (N = 325, mean age = 74.5). In total, intervention group participants received three times computer-tailored PA stimulating advice within four months (i.e., at baseline, after two months, and after three to four months). The online and print delivered advice were tailored to the specific needs and wishes of the participant and focused on incorporating PA in daily life. Baseline and follow-up measurements of the CF verbal memory (Verbal Learning Test), shifting (Trailmaking Test), inhibition (Stop-signal Task) and processing speed (Letter Digit Substitution Test) were assessed after six and 12 months. Intervention effects were analyzed with multilevel linear mixed-effects models adjusted for the clustered design and confounding variables. Results The dropout rate was 19.1% after 6 months and 25.1% after 12 months. Although both conditions improved on all verbal memory outcomes after 6 months, and all CF outcomes except inhibition after 12 months, no intervention effects were found, not even in subgroups (p > .05). Conclusions To our knowledge this is the first study to test the cognitive effects of a computer-tailored PA stimulating intervention in older adults suffering from a broad range of chronic diseases. The effects of the Active Plus intervention were not strong enough to improve CF or prevent cognitive decline. A blended approach, in which this computer-tailored intervention is combined with a face-to-face PA intervention and / or cognitive training, might be a good suggestion to increase the effects of Active Plus on PA and CF in older adults with chronic diseases.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Review of Aging and Physical Activity
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2021


  • Ageing
  • Chronic disease
  • Cognition
  • Older adults
  • Physical activity
  • Physical activity promotion
  • Randomized intervention
  • ageing
  • chronic disease
  • cognition
  • older adults
  • physical activity
  • physical activity promotion
  • randomized intervention

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