Partnered Exercise More Effective For Older Adults, Study Finds


A recent study conducted by researchers from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) delves into the impact of exercising with a partner and receiving real-time fitness feedback on the physical activity levels of older adults. Published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, the study, which focused on individuals aged 54 to 72, offers intriguing insights into the dynamics of partnered exercise and personalized fitness tracking.

The primary objectives of the research were twofold: to assess the influence of partnered exercise on the physical activity levels of older adults and to evaluate the effectiveness of real-time fitness feedback in promoting increased physical activity.

The study involved 240 participants, all aged between 54 and 72, who were married and living with their spouses. They were divided into two groups: 30 couples who exercised together and 60 individuals who exercised individually without their spouses in each group. Half of each group received real-time fitness feedback, while the other half did not.

Participants were equipped with fitness trackers recording various metrics, including steps, heart rate, distance, calories burned, activity minutes, and sleep data. The data collection spanned 12 weeks, with a focus on daily step thresholds and mean/median step counts.

Key findings emerged from the study:

  • Participants exercising as couples demonstrated lower mean and median step counts.
  • Couples met high daily step counts less frequently compared to those exercising individually.
  • Achieving higher activity levels was deemed challenging for couples, requiring significant lifestyle changes.

Participants receiving real-time feedback achieved higher daily step counts more frequently. The feedback highlighted the gap between current and desired physical activity states, fostering continued motivation. No significant impact was observed on achieving low step counts of 5,000 or high step counts of 15,000.

The study suggests that, for older adults, promoting physical activity may be more effective by encouraging individual exercise rather than exercising as couples. Changing established routines ingrained in family life can be challenging for long-married couples.

The role of personalized real-time feedback from fitness trackers is emphasized, as it positively influences older adults’ physical activity. Highlighting goal achievement fosters belief in one’s ability to maintain an active lifestyle. Older adults are more inclined to attain moderate step counts of 7,500 and 10,000, which are challenging yet engaging.

The research team aims to conduct more in-depth analyses of the collected data to inform policies promoting active aging in seniors. Additionally, they plan to extend the study model to explore health and technology inequalities in older adults of lower socioeconomic status.

In conclusion, this study provides valuable insights into tailoring exercise recommendations for older adults, underlining the importance of individualized approaches and leveraging real-time feedback for sustained motivation.

Do you work out alone or with a partner? Does this study have you wanting to find a partner? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

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