This study compared the long-term effectiveness of three physical activity counseling strategies among sedentary older adults: a 1-contact referral (REFER), a 1-contact individualized walking program (WALK), and multiple-contact, individually tailored, and need-supportive coaching based on the self-determination theory (COACH). Participants (n = 442) completed measurements before (pretest), immediately after (posttest), and 1 yr after (follow-up test) a 10-wk intervention. Linear mixed models demonstrated significant time-by-condition interaction effects from pre- to posttest. More specifically, WALK and COACH yielded larger increases in daily steps and self-reported physical activity than REFER. Similarly, self-reported physical activity increased more from pre- to follow-up test in WALK and COACH compared with REFER. Autonomous motivation mediated the effect of perceived need-support on physical activity, irrespective of counseling strategy. These results demonstrate the long-term effectiveness of both a 1-contact individualized walking program and a more time-consuming, need-supportive coaching, especially in comparison with a standard referral to local opportunities.
The authors are with the Dept. of Kinesiology, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.