Active for Life: Translation of Physical Activity Programs for Mid-Life and Older Adults, 2003-2007 [United States] (ICPSR 24723)

Published: Jul 15, 2009

Principal Investigator(s):
Sara Wilcox, University of South Carolina

Version V2

Evaluation of Active for Life: Increasing Physical Activity Levels in Adults Age 50 and Over, 2003-2007

Sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Active for Life (AFL) initiative investigated how two physical activity programs for adults aged 50 and older, Active Choices (AC) and Active Living Every Day (ALED), worked in community settings. Created by researchers at Stanford University, Active Choices used lifestyle counseling and personalized telephone support to encourage older adults to be physically active. In AFL, this was a 6-month program delivered through one face-to-face meeting followed by up to eight one-on-one telephone counseling calls. Active Living Every Day, which was created by the Cooper Institute and Human Kinetics Inc., also provided lifestyle counseling to promote physical activity, but in a classroom and workbook format. During the first three years of the four-year AFL initiative, ALED was delivered as a 20-week program where participants attended weekly small group meetings, but in the last year it was shortened to 12 weekly meetings. Nine organizations received AFL grants to implement the programs during 2003-2006. Four grantees implemented the one-on-one AC model, while five implemented the group-based ALED model.

Data were collected from the AC and ALED sites for both a process and outcomes evaluation. The primary aims of the process evaluation were to (1) monitor the extent to which the grantees demonstrated fidelity to the AC and ALED models in their program implementation, (2) assess staff experiences implementing the programs, and (3) assess participants' impressions of the programs. A quasi-experimental, pre-post study design was used to assess outcomes. Primary aims of the outcomes evaluation were to evaluate the impact of AC and ALED on self-reported physical activity, and to evaluate the impact of the programs on self-reported stress, depressive symptoms, and satisfaction with body function and appearance. Secondary aims of the outcome evaluation were to (1) evaluate the impact of the programs on measures of functional fitness, (2) examine whether changes in self-reported physical activity and functional fitness were moderated by participant characteristics, including age, gender, race, baseline physical activity self-efficacy, and baseline physical activity social support, and (3) examine whether changes in self-reported physical activity were consistent with a mediation model for physical activity self-efficacy and physical activity social support.

The collection has 14 data files (datasets). Datasets 1-7 constitute the process evaluation data, and Datasets 8-14 the outcomes evaluation data:

Dataset 1 (AC Initial Face-to-Face Sessions Data) contains information about the initial face-to-face AC session: the format, date, and length of the session, whether the 8 steps required in the face-to-face session were completed, what was discussed between the health educator and the participant related to physical activity plans, interests, benefits, and barriers, and the health educator's progress notes. The file contains one record for each AC participant.

Dataset 2 (AC Completed Calls Data) comprises information about the completed AC calls, but does not cover the topics discussed on the calls. Recorded information about each call includes the date and length of the call, the health educator's progress notes, and whether the participant was assessed for injury, light activity, moderate activity, exercise goals, or exercise intentions. Each call is represented by a separate record in the data file and, typically, there are multiple records per participant.

Dataset 3 (AC Topics Discussed on Completed Calls ) contains information about the topics discussed on each completed AC call, e.g., exercise barriers/benefits, previous exercise experiences, goal setting, long term goals, injury prevention, rewards/reinforcement, social support, progress tracking, and relapse prevention. Each record in the file represents one topic and there are often multiple records per call for each participant.

Dataset 4 (AC Aggregate Call Data) aggregates the call data across calls for each AC participant. For example, for a given participant, this dataset shows the total number of calls completed, the number of calls where injury/health problems were assessed, etc. The file contains one record per participant.

Dataset 5 (ALED Sessions Data) contains information about each class session for every ALED group, including the session date, start time, and end time, learning activities covered in the session, participant evaluations of the session and the facilitator, facilitator progress notes, the number of participants who were in various stages of readiness for moderate exercise, and the number of participants who tracked physical activity and thoughts about physical activity. This file has one record for each session of every ALED group.

Dataset 6 (ALED Attendance and Tracking Data (Years 2-4)) consists of participant-level attendance and tracking data for every ALED session during the second to fourth years of the evaluation, including the participant's attendance at the session, whether the participant's stage of readiness was assessed, and whether the participant tracked thoughts about physical activity or actual physical activity. There is no participant-level ALED data for the first year. Each participant has a separate record for each session. Thus, the file contains 20 records per participant in the years 2-3, and 12 records per participant in year 4.

Dataset 7 (ALED Aggregate Attendance and Tracking Data (Years 2-4)) contains ALED attendance and tracking data for each participant in years 2-4, aggregated across the sessions. The data file has one record for each participant.

Dataset 8 (Demographics) comprises program information (e.g., program status, start date, end date, site, etc.), demographic information (e.g., age, gender, race, Hispanic origin, employment status, income, and the participant's state and ZIP code of residence), and responses to the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q), a screening tool that was used to assess possible risks of exercising based on answers to specific health history questions. The file contains one record for each AFL participant, except for those with a status of "nonstarter" or "repeater."

Datasets 9 (Pretest Survey Data) and 10 (Posttest Survey Data) contain data from the Pretest and Posttest Surveys. The Pretest Survey was administered at the beginning of the AC and ALED programs, while the Posttest Survey was administered at their end. Topics covered by the surveys include social and recreational activities, activities undertaken for exercise, perceived stress, depressive symptoms, satisfaction with body appearance and function, social support for physical activity, self-efficacy for physical activity, neighborhood environment, health conditions, health-related quality of life, caregiving, and self-reported height and weight. Both surveys included items from the Community Health Activities Model Program for Seniors Physical Activity Questionnaire (CHAMPS), the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Questionnaire (CES-D), the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Questionnaires (BRFSS), and the International Physical Activity Prevalence Study Environmental Module. These data files each have one record for each participant who submitted a questionnaire.

Dataset 11 (ALED Week 12 Survey Data (Year 4)) contains responses to the ALED Week 12 Posttest Survey, which was used to evaluate the 12-week adaptation of ALED in Year 4. (In Year 4, ALED participants completed both a 12- and 20-week posttest survey). There is one record for each participant who returned this survey.

Dataset 12 (Six-Month Posttest Follow-Up Survey Data (Years 3-4)) comprises data from a special 6-month follow-up survey which was administered in years 3-4 in six of the ALED sites and one of the AC sites. Participants were questioned about their current physical activities, weight, health-related quality of life, satisfaction with bodily function, and other topics. As with Datasets 9-11, the data file contains one record for each participant who returned a questionnaire.

Dataset 13 (Functional Fitness Tests Data) contains the results of pretest and posttest functional fitness tests which were administered by one ALED grantee. Four tests were adminstered: (1) the 30-Foot Walk Test, (2) the 30-Second Chair Stand, (3) 8-Foot Up and Go, and (4) the Chair Sit and Reach Test. This participant-level data file also includes pretest height measurements plus pretest and posttest weight measurements.

Dataset 14 (Participants' Impressions of the Programs (Years 1, 3, and 4)) contains data collected by the last sections of the Posttest Survey, ALED Week 12 survey, and 6-Month Follow-up Survey. The topics it covers include the participants' impressions of the programs, participation in physical activities, and changes (compared to before they started the AFL program) in motivation to be physically active, actual level of physical activity, medical and health conditions, overall pain, flexibility/limberness, level of stress, happiness, and enjoyment of life. The file has a separate record for each survey completed by the participants. Thus, there are 1-3 records per participant.

Wilcox, Sara. Active for Life: Translation of Physical Activity Programs for Mid-Life and Older Adults, 2003-2007 [United States]. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2009-07-15.

Export Citation:

  • RIS (generic format for RefWorks, EndNote, etc.)
  • EndNote

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (57814)

As explained in the ICPSR Processing Note in the codebook, Datasets 1-7, many variables in Datasets 8-11, and Datasets 12-14 are restricted from general dissemination for reasons of confidentiality. Users interested in obtaining these data must complete an Agreement for the Use of Confidential Data, specify the reasons for the request, and obtain IRB approval or notice of exemption for their research. Apply for access to these data through the ICPSR restricted data contract portal, which can be accessed via the study home page.

2003 -- 2007

2003 -- 2007

Active for Life was one of six Active Living programs funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to promote healthier communities and lifestyles. The Active for Life National Program Office (NPO) was located at the School of Rural Public Health at the Texas A & M Health Science Center, which received a grant from the Foundation to oversee the AFL grants program. Detailed information about the program can be found at the NPO Web site:

Over the life of the initiative, each grantee was expected to recruit 900 participants for a study total of 8,100. Recruitment strategies were tailored by sites to their communities, typically using a combination of newspaper advertisements, direct mail, presentations to community and clinical groups, community flyers, and church contacts. The five ALED grantees were the Greater Detroit Area Health Council (Detroit, MI), FirstHealth of the Carolinas (Pinehurst, NC), Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington (Rockville, MD), OASIS Institute (St. Louis, MO), and Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio (Cincinnati, OH). The four AC grantees were the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago (Chicago, IL), San Mateo County Health Services (San Mateo, CA), Blue Shield of California (Woodland Hills, CA), and Church Health Center (Memphis, TN). The OASIS Institute had distinct sites in St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and San Antonio, and the San Mateo County Health Services collaborated with the Berkeley Public Health Department which served as an additional site. Thus, there were 12 AFL sites altogether: 5 AC sites and 7 ALED sites.

Persons 50 years of age and older who were sedentary or under-active (i.e., 2 or fewer days/week and less than 120 minutes/week of physical activity) and free of medical conditions or disabilities that required higher levels of supervision.

observational data

survey data

coded on-site observation

mail questionnaire

on-site questionnaire

Posttest response rates were 61 percent for Active Choices and 70 percent for ALED. The rates ranged from 49 percent to 69 percent across the AC sites and from 65 percent to 76 percent across the ALED sites.

Body mass index (BMI)

CHAMPS physical activity measures: (1) caloric expenditure per week in all activity, (2) caloric expenditure per week in moderate and vigorous intensity activity, (3) metabolic equivalent (MET)-hours per week in all activity, (4) MET-hours per week in moderate and vigorous intensity activity, (5) hours per week in moderate and vigorous intensity activity, (6) hours per week in all activity, and (7) hours per week in leisure-time moderate and vigorous intensity activity.

Self-reported Centers for Disease Control(CDC)/American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) physical activity levels (compliance with CDC/ACSM recommendations)

Perceived Stress Scale

CES-D Depression Scale

Satisfaction with Body Appearance and Function Scales

Social Support for Physical Activity Scale

Self Efficacy for Physical Activity Scale



2009-06-02 ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Created variable labels and/or value labels.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

2009-07-15 Datasets 2 and 3, which are restricted from general dissemination, were revised.


  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.

  • One or more files in this data collection have special restrictions. Restricted data files are not available for direct download from the website; click on the Restricted Data button to learn more.

HMCA logo

This study is maintained and distributed by the Health and Medical Care Archive (HMCA). HMCA is the official data archive of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.