Systematic review found that physical activity improves social functioning in older people

This recent systematic review evaluates the effects of physical activity interventions on social functioning, isolation and support in community-dwelling older people. This appears to be the first review to address this question. The protocol for this review was prospectively registered on PROSPERO. The main outcomes were loneliness, social isolation, social support, social networks, and social functioning (a subdomain of health-related quality of life). The review identified 38 randomised controlled trials (5,288 participants) that compared a physical activity intervention to a non-physical activity or control (sedentary) intervention. 26 of the trials had a low risk of bias. A small significant positive effect favouring physical activity intervention was found for social functioning (standardised mean difference 0.30; 95% confidence interval 0.12 to 0.49), but no effect was found for loneliness, social isolation, social support, or social networks. There were sufficient trials to explore the influence of different subgroups on social functioning. The strongest effects were obtained for physical activity interventions provided in isolation, in populations with a medical condition, in the group exercise setting, and when delivered by a medical healthcare provider. Possible mechanisms underlying the social health effects of physical activity are discussed in the article.

Shvedko A, et al. Physical activity interventions for treatment of social isolation, loneliness or low social support in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Psychol Sport Exerc 2018;34:128-137

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