Predictors of Dropout in Exercise Trials in Older Adults

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Dropout from exercise programs, both in the real world and in research, is a challenge, and more information on dropout-predictors is needed for establishing strategies to increase the likelihood of maintaining participants in a prescribed exercise program. The aim of the present study was to determine the dropout rate and its predictors during a 3-year exercise program in older adults.


In total, 1514 men and women (age 72.4±1.9 years) were included in the present study. Participants were randomized to either a supervised exercise intervention or to follow national guidelines for physical activity (PA). Self-reported demographics (e.g. education), general health, morbidity (e.g. heart disease, memory loss, psychological distress), smoking and PA were examined at baseline. Cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and grip strength were directly measured at baseline. Dropout rate was evaluated after 1- and 3-years. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to identify dropout-predictors.


The total dropout rate was 11.0% (n=166) after 1-year and 14.9% (n=225) after 3-years. Significant predictors of dropout after 1-year were low education, low grip strength, lower CRF, low PA level and randomization to supervised exercise. The same predictors of dropout were significant after 3-years, with reduced memory status as an additional predictor.


This is the largest study to identify dropout-predictors in a long-term exercise program in older adults. Our findings provide new and important knowledge about potential risk factors of dropout in long-term exercise programs in older adults.

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