Scaling Up Physical Activity for Older Adults

Celebrating International Day of Older Persons

Presented by the University of Sydney, WHO Physical Activity Unit & the International Society for Physical Activity and Health, this collaborative webinar brought together colleagues from around the world to celebrate UN International Day of Older Persons!

In this session we presented an overview of evidence of what works in physical activity for older adults, as well as exmaples of scalable physical activity programs and services around the world.


Pinheiro MB, Oliveira JS, Baldwin JN, Hassett J, Costa N, Gilchrist H, Wang B, Kwok W, Albuquerque B, Pivotto LR, Carvalho-Silva APMC, Sharma S, Gilbert S, Bauman A, Bull FC, Willumsen J, Sherrington C, Tiedemann A. Impact of physical activity programs and services for older adults: a rapid review. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2022:87.

Pinheiro MB, Sherrington C, Howard K, Caldwell P, Tiedemann A, Wang B, Oliveira JS, Santos A, Bull F, Willumsen J, Michaleff ZA, Ferguson S, Mayo E, Fairhall N,  Bauman A, Norris S. Economic evaluations of fall prevention exercise programs: a systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine. In Press.

WHO Guidelines and Every Move Counts resources:

About the Speakers

Prof Ben Smith, Professor of Public Health (Prevention and Health Promotion), University of Sydney. In an extensive career that has included program management and academic roles, Ben has lead numerous projects to improve pathways into physical activity to address chronic disease and injury priorities.  He is Deputy Director of the Prevention Research Collaboration in the Sydney School of Public Health, and his other affiliations include the WHO Collaborating Centre in Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity, the Western Sydney Local Health District, and the Australian Systems Approach to Physical Activity program.

Dr Fiona Bull heads the Physical Activity Unit in the Department of Health Promotion at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Prior to joining WHO in 2017 she was Professor of Public Health and Director of Research Centre on Built Environment and Health at the University of Western Australia. Previous positions include Professor of Physical Activity and Director of the United Kingdom’s National Centre of Physical Activity and Health and Senior Scientist at the CDC in the Department of Health and Human Services, USA. Dr Bull studied in the United Kingdom and Australia and was President of the International Society of Physical Activity and Health from 2014-2016 and co-authored over 200 scientific publications. At WHO, Dr Bull leads a team working on the cross-cutting agenda of promoting physical activity through active transport, sport and every-day activities through advancing the science, policy and practice to support countries implement the Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018-2030: More active people for a healthier world.

A/Prof Karen Milton is an Associate Professor in Public Health at the University of East Anglia in the UK, and President-elect of ISPAH. She is also an Associate Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Obesity, Nutrition and Physical Activity. Karen’s research interests span the measurement of physical activity, population level interventions, evaluation methods and policy research. She was a member of the Guideline Development Group for the 2020 WHO guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour and was also part of the Strategic Advisory Network for the development of the WHO Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018 – 2030

Dr Heidi Gilchrist is a physiotherapist, public health lecturer and early career researcher in the Sydney School of Public Health and a member of the Physical Activity, Ageing and Disability Research Stream at the Institute for Musculoskeletal Health, a partnership between the University of Sydney and Sydney Local Health District. Her research focuses on the physical activity behaviours of marginalised populations, and she uses qualitative and mixed methods to understand how and why interventions work (or not). Her PhD studies examined the social context of young women’s physical activity participation, and she is currently conducting a process evaluation of the SAGE yoga trial, a randomised controlled trial investigating the effect of yoga on falls among 700 participants aged 60+, and an impact evaluation of the RIPE dance program for older people. Recently she collaborated on a WHO commissioned rapid review of the impact of physical activity programs and services for older adults and is now examining the behaviour change techniques commonly used in these physical activity programs and services. She also works in clinical practice and teaches public health in the Master of Public Health program at the University of Sydney.

Dr. Pinheiro is a NHMRC Early Career Fellow and senior research fellow at the Institute for Musculoskeletal Health. Dr Pinheiro’s research focuses on cost-effectiveness of physical activity interventions and promotion of physical activity by health professionals. Dr Pinheiro was awarded a PhD in July 2017 and has an outstanding track record of 66 peer-reviewed papers (19 as first author). Dr Pinheiro has published in top ranking journals (e.g., BJSM, BMJ, PLOS Medicine), has co-authored 3 Cochrane reviews and has led 4 WHO-commissioned reviews.

Professor Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia.

My research program spans the life course from childhood to old age. I am best known for: (i) health promotion: study of upstream factors (e.g. physical activity) that promote the health of children, youth and older adults; (ii) implementation science: study of design, implementation and scale-up of health promoting interventions in school (children, youth) and community (older adults) settings, and (iii) knowledge exchange: creating partnerships with community and government stakeholders to move research outcomes into action to promote health at the population level.

I lead the multidisciplinary Active Aging Research Team (AART) at UBC. My research evaluates the role of novel, scalable health promoting interventions on children’s health and on older adult health, mobility and social connectedness. I adopt an implementation science/knowledge mobilization lens to evaluate factors that influence implementation, adaptation and scale-up (dissemination) of effective health promoting interventions as a means to improve health on a population level.

Prof Afroditi Stathi is a Professor of Physical Activity and Community Health at the University of Birmingham, UK. Her research promotes active ageing, the development of scalable health behaviour interventions and the co-production of interventions that can help communities to become more activity-friendly. She leads multidisciplinary, large randomised controlled trials including the Active, Connected, Engaged study testing the effectiveness of a peer-volunteering intervention and the successful Retirement in Action study which proved the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a group exercise and behavioural maintenance programme for frail and pre-frail older people. This is now implemented in the city of Bristol, UK with plans for national roll-out. Her work has attracted funding from all major UK funding agencies and the European Commission and has been published in world leading journals. She has contributed to policy development including the UK Chief Medical Officers’ Physical Activity Guidelines. She currently leads the Health Inequalities theme of the Public Health RESearch for Health Consortium [PHRESH] funded by the NIHR School for Public Health, co-directs the ATTAIN network for promoting healthy ageing and tackling health inequalities and leads the Community Health theme in the Centre for Urban Wellbeing at the University of Birmingham.

Dr Etienne Ngeh is a trained Cameroonian Physiotherapist and Cardiac Rehabilitation Specialist. He holds a BSc. in Physiotherapy and an MSc. in Cardiovascular Health and Rehabilitation from the University of Chester, England. Currently a graduate teaching assistant (Ph.D. fellow), Health Research Institute at Sheffield Hallam University. His Ph.D. is looking at Physiotherapist-Led Health Promotion for people at risk or with established cardiovascular diseases. Current teaching areas include Cardiovascular and Respiratory Physiotherapy, Barriers and facilitators to physical activity uptake, Therapeutic exercise and physical activity, Behaviour change (strategies), and Evidence-based reasoning in Physiotherapy.

Former Head of Physiotherapy Department St. Louis University Bamenda, Cameroon, and former team lead of Physiotherapy service of the Regional Hospital Bamenda. He is the founder and promoter of the Research Organization for Health Education and Rehabilitation-Cameroon (ROHER-CAM) with the primary aim of providing evidence for health professionals for effective and strategic health education. He is the current Chair of the Guideline-International-Network (GIN) African Regional Community promoting guideline development and implementation in the region and globally. He is also one of the founders and coordinators of African Rehabilitation Network a community of practice with Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Therapists, Community Based Rehabilitation Workers among others practicing in the region.   His research interests include rehabilitation, health promotion, and prevention, non-communicable diseases, and Knowledge translation.

Dr Juana Willumsen is a technical officer of the World Health Organization in the Department for Health Promotion. Her current work focusses on policies to promote physical activity and developing the technical tools to support country implementation. She coordinated the development of the first WHO guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under 5 years of age, that were launched in April 2019 and the update of the guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour for children, adults and older adults in 2020.

Professor Emeritus Lindy Clemson is a specialist in public health research on ageing and an occupational therapist with a PhD in epidemiology. She has led research and advocacy internationally for best practice in home evaluation and falls prevention using environmental and enablement strategies. Her work has influenced both policy and practice, and her publications are highlighted in Cochrane Reviews, the Australian and the US national all prevention practice guidelines, and the US compendium of effective community-based falls prevention interventions. She is internationally recognised in the top 10 most published fall prevention researchers and most published occupational therapist in fall prevention (Web of Science). Her research has changed the face of community practice for fall prevention. She has led the development of three fall prevention community-based interventions for older people all proven effective in randomized trials (with two as principal investigator). Along with accessible manuals and products, this has enabled them to be adopted and implemented in Australia and worldwide. They include interventions that are specific to occupational therapy skills (home safety interventions) and those able to be delivered by multiple health professions (Stepping On, LiFE). She is now applying her skills in developing complex interventions and conducting complex trials for higher risk populations who have high incidence of falls and injuries and whom were for decades excluded from fall trials. This includes survivors of stroke and those living with dementia.

Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology in the Health Sciences Graduation Program, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná (Curitiba, Brazil). He holds Master and doctoral degrees in Physical Education from Federal University of Paraná. During the last 15 years has been part of several research projects related to promotion of physical activity mainly through built environment changes. The main projects include the GUIA Project (Guide for Useful Interventions for Physical Activity in Brazil and Latin America), IPEN adults (International Physical Activity and Environment Network), IPEN adolescents, HULAP project (Healthy Urban Living and Ageing in Place) and Our Voice project which is based on the citizen science framework.

Prof Sherrington (FAHMS, FACP, PhD, MPH, BAppSc (Physio)) is Professor, School of Public Health, University of Sydney. Prof Sherrington leads the 28-person Physical Activity, Ageing and Disability Research Stream within the Institute for Musculoskeletal Health (a partnership between University of Sydney and Sydney Local Health District) and is Deputy Director of the Institute.

Prof Sherrington’s research focusses on interventions to prevent falls and promote physical activity. Prof Sherrington’s 300 journal articles include reports of 47 clinical trials and 26 systematic reviews. Prof Sherrington has been invited to present her work at 17 international conferences. Prof Sherrington has been Chief Investigator on Australian National Heath and Medical Research Council /Medical Research Future Fund grants totalling $26 million, including clinical trials of physiotherapy interventions and a Centre of Research Excellence in the Prevention of Fall-related Injuries.

Prof Sherrington plays a leading role in a number of professional organisations including the global Fragility Fracture Network, the Cerebral Palsy International Sport and Recreation Association and the Australia and New Zealand Fall Prevention Society and was one of the founders of the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro).

Prof Sherrington also has ten years clinical physiotherapy experience in aged care and rehabilitation settings.

Professor Anne Tiedemann is a University of Sydney Robinson Fellow and leads the Healthy Ageing research theme at the Institute for Musculoskeletal Health, a partnership between The University of Sydney and Sydney Local Health District. Professor Anne Tiedemann’s research interests include falls risk assessment and prevention in older people; predictors of exercise adherence in older people; physical activity and yoga for improving independence in older age; translation of research results into policy and practice, and allied health professional education around implementation of fall prevention interventions.