Physical activity is associated with greater independence in old age. However, little is known about the effect of physical activity level and activity type on activities of daily living (ADL). This review systematically analyzed the effects of physical activity level and activity type on ADL in older adults (mean age, 60+). Electronic search methods (up to March 2015) identified 47 relevant, randomized controlled trials. Random effects meta-analyses revealed significant, beneficial effects of physical activity on ADL physical performance (SMD = 0.72, 95% CI [0.45, 1.00]; p < .01), with the largest effects found for moderate physical activity levels, and for activity types with high levels of mental (e.g., memory, attention), physical (e.g., coordination, balance) and social (e.g., social interaction) demands. Inconsistent effects were observed on self-reported ADL measures. Interventions that include moderate physical activity levels with high mental, physical, and social demands may produce the greatest benefits on ADL physical performance.
Roberts, Cooper, and Allan are with the Institute of Applied Health Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom. Phillips is with School of Psychology, Kings College, Old Aberdeen, United Kingdom. Gray is with the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom.