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The REACT (REtirement in ACTion) trial

A randomised controlled trial of a community-based physical activity intervention to prevent mobility-related disability for retired older people


As people get older, they often find that walking, climbing stairs and doing their normal daily activities become more difficult. The REACT study tested whether a group exercise programme run in local communities could reduce this decline in older adults, and whether it provided good value for money.


A multicentre, pragmatic, two-arm, parallel-group randomised controlled trial, for physically frail or pre-frail older adults aged ≥ 65 years. Recruitment was primarily via 35 primary care practices. Participants were randomly assigned to receive three healthy ageing education sessions or a 12-month, group-based exercise programme delivered in fitness and community centres. The primary outcome was improved mobility at 24 months.


Between June 2016 and October 2017, 777 participants (mean age 77.6 years, 66% female) were randomised to the intervention arm (n = 410) or the control arm (n = 367). Data collection was completed in October 2019.

At the 12 month and 24-month follow-up, participants mobility was significantly greater in the intervention arm than in the control arm. Self-reported physical activity significantly increased in the intervention arm compared with the control arm.

Engagement with the REACT intervention was associated with positive changes in exercise competence, relatedness and enjoyment and perceived physical, social and mental well-being benefits. The intervention plus usual care was cost-effective compared with care alone over the 2 years of REACT.


People that took part in the REACT intervention reported better mobility throughout the study. This most importantly included the final assessment which took place 24 months after the programme had started, 12 months after REACT sessions had finished.

This CRN Portfolio study was sponsored by University of Bath and funded by the NIHR Public Health Research Programme.