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Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2009 Dec 8;6:83. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-6-83.

The working mechanisms of an environmentally tailored physical activity intervention for older adults: a randomized controlled trial.

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Open University of the Netherlands, Department of Psychology, PO Box 2960, 6401 DL, Heerlen, The Netherlands.



The aim of this study was to explore the working mechanisms of a computer tailored physical activity intervention for older adults with environmental information compared to a basic tailored intervention without environmental information.


A clustered randomized controlled trial with two computer tailored interventions and a no-intervention control group was conducted among 1971 adults aged >/= 50. The two tailored interventions were developed using Intervention Mapping and consisted of three tailored letters delivered over a four-month period. The basic tailored intervention targeted psychosocial determinants alone, while the environmentally tailored intervention additionally targeted environmental determinants, by providing tailored environmental information. Study outcomes were collected with questionnaires at baseline, three and six months and comprised total physical activity (days/week), walking (min/week), cycling (min/week), sports (min/week), environmental perceptions and use and appreciation of the interventions.


Mediation analyses showed that changes in cycling, sports and total physical activity behaviour induced by the environmentally tailored intervention were mediated by changes in environmental perceptions. Changes in environmental perceptions did not mediate the effect of the basic tailored intervention on behaviour. Compared with the basic tailored intervention, the environmentally tailored intervention significantly improved cycling behaviour (tau = 30.2). Additionally, the tailored letters of the environmentally tailored intervention were better appreciated and used, although these differences did not mediate the intervention effect.


This study gave some first indications of the relevance of environmental perceptions as a determinant of changing physical activity behaviours and the potential effectiveness of providing environmental information as an intervention strategy aimed at enhancing physical activity behaviour among older adults.

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