A review of how we should define (and measure) adherence in studies examining older adults’ participation in exercise classes

Helen Hawley-Hague, M. Horne, D.A. Skelton, Chris Todd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Exercise classes provide a range of benefits to older adults, reducing risk of illness, promoting functional ability and improving well-being. However, to be effective and achieve long-term outcomes exercise needs to be maintained. Adherence is poor and reporting of adherence differs considerably between studies.
To explore how adherence to exercise classes for older people is defined in the literature and devise a definition for pooling data on adherence in future studies.
Methodological review of the approaches used to measure adherence
A review of the literature was carried out using narrative synthesis, based on systematic searches ofMEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL and PsychINFO . Two investigators identified eligible studies and extracted data independently.
Thirty-seven papers including thirty-four studies were identified. Seven papers (seven studies) defined adherence as completion (retention). Thirty papers (27 studies) identified adherence using attendance records. Twelve papers (11studies) based adherence on duration of exercise and five papers (four studies) specified the intensity with which participants should exercise. Several studies used multiple methods.
There was little consensus between studies on how adherence should be defined, and even when studies used the same conceptual measure they measured the concept using different approaches and/or had different cut-off points. Adherence related to health outcomes requires multiple measurements e.g. attendance, duration and intensity. It is important that future studies consider the outcome of the intervention when considering their definition of adherence, and we recommend a series of definitions for future use.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere011560
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2016


Dive into the research topics of 'A review of how we should define (and measure) adherence in studies examining older adults’ participation in exercise classes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this