The REACT study
The REACT study
The REACT study
The REACT study
The REACT study

Intervention description

Intervention Arm


The intervention group will receive a standardised 12-month programme designed for delivery in leisure/community centres and fitness/health clubs where low-cost late morning capacity is available (which coincides with the periods where older adults are most likely to be out and about) and where suitable space for social activities is available. REACT will be delivered by qualified exercise professionals with experience in delivery of exercise classes in the community. We will collaborate with existing community based organisations who have access to appropriate venues and delivery staff. These organisations will offer a range of facilities suitable for delivery of the intervention.


Sessions will be organised as group activities with up to 15 participants per group, but there will be individually tailored elements for both aerobic exercise (where intensity will be tailored to existing aerobic capacity/fitness) and strength work (where exercises will be tailored to existing muscle strength). Activities will include cardiovascular, strength, balance and flexibility exercises and daily lifestyle-based activity in the form of neighbourhood walking and active travel. Breaks in sedentary time will also be promoted. Social activities such as post-exercise coffee meetings and community-based activities will be organised to encourage a ‘social club’ atmosphere and promote long-term compliance.

The REACT intervention is designed to develop physical confidence, build skills for long term behaviour change, including a focus on neighbourhood activity, and providing opportunities for enjoyable social engagement. A novel element is the accompanying ‘REACT ambassadors’ scheme that provides the opportunity for participants to develop expertise and contribute as a) a programme recruiter, or b) a local neighbourhood coordinator. Our aim is to produce a pragmatic model of delivery that is rooted in the needs of the local community, that attracts a diverse population of older adults largely through its social and developmental appeal, is increasingly self-sustaining, and that has potential for application across the UK.

The programme will be designed to address each element of health-related fitness recommended in the UK Chief Medical Officers' guidelines for activity for older adults. This includes warming up, strengthening and flexibility exercises, aerobic exercise building to moderate intensity levels, and exercises designed to improve balance and coordination. The intervention includes a long-term target of 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week, which is approached progressively and takes place in part beyond the structured sessions. Participants will be encouraged to seek opportunities for physical activity throughout the day, through active hobbies such as gardening, and use of stairs, leisurely walks with friends and active travel. Supplementary instructions, ‘home-friendly’ exercises and written materials will be supplied to encourage generalisation of exercise performance to the home environment.


Principles of progression and adaptation will be applied in order to build exercise training demand at a rate that is appropriate for current levels of function and activity. Participants will be trained to use ratings of perceived exertion and self-assessment of breathing as a method of regulating physical activity to moderate intensity levels. The initial focus is to orient participants to the concept of strength training, to build confidence in performing and completing the exercises, and to introduce the concept of training progression.


The supervised setting will allow instructors to tailor the programme to individual needs and abilities early on, so as to prevent early dropout and through in-session interactions and discussion to facilitate the building of self-efficacy and support. If participants miss two consecutive sessions, REACT leaders will call the participant to problem solve ways for the participant to re-engage with the programme.

Intervention delivery


REACT will be delivered in three progressive phases (Start up, Build up and Take charge) and established behaviour change techniques will be used to enhance motivation, to make realistic plans for sustainable activity, to pre-empt and overcome barriers, to engage social support and to use self-monitoring and self-regulatory techniques to support the maintenance of behaviour change. REACT will be delivered by qualified exercise professionals with experience in delivery of exercise classes in the community. The REACT co-applicants will provide training in intervention delivery methods, including detailed session plans to ensure consistency and fidelity in programme delivery.


Start up (weeks 1 to 8): The purpose of this phase is to stimulate initial increases in physical activity and fitness, to reduce any anxieties or concerns about exercise, and to build confidence and a sense of attachment to the programme. Each participant will receive a 45-minute individualised, face-to-face introductory session, during which time the programme will be described, benefits and personal relevance of activity discussed, questions answered, and baseline assessment used to tailor the programme for starting levels and progression. Two 60-minute physical activity sessions per week, plus a 20 minutes social and educational session, will then be delivered by the REACT trainer.

Twice/week 60-min. physical activity sessions followed by a 20-min. social and education session

45-min. individualised introductory session with activity session leader

Build-up (weeks 9 to 24): A 45-minute interactive educational/social session run by the REACT trainers will be added at the end of one of the two weekly sessions. These sessions will use evidence-based, person-centred behaviour change strategies to build intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy. They will be designed to maximise enjoyment, social interaction, and group identity. Behavioural management will focus on self-regulation using goal setting, self-monitoring, reviewing of goals and problem-solving. A key focus will be on exploring and planning transition to more lifestyle-based activities. Pedometers will be introduced during these sessions to support the participant in the transition to the maintenance phase.

45-min. interactive social and education session added at the end of one physical activity session

Twice/week 60-min. physical activity sessions + 20-min. social and education session

After week 12, the exercise session frequency will be reduced to one per week but with an expectation that participants find an hour per week to exercise at home, in the neighbourhood or at a local physical activity session. Performance of this transitional behaviour will be encouraged and monitored in the interactive sessions. Participants will also be introduced to the REACT Ambassador training programme. REACT Ambassadors will have a choice of specialising in programme administration, or becoming local community activators (facilitators of local physical activity opportunities). For a leaflet with more information about the Ambassador's programme, click here.

Frequency of 60-min. physical activity sessions + 20 min. social and education session reduces to once/week after week 12

Ambassador training programme is introduced after week 12

Take charge (weeks 25 to 52): The third stage will focus further on home and neighbourhood-based activities while continuing with a weekly centre-based physical activity session followed by a social and education session. Participants will enact action plans that were made during the transition phase and will be supported through group social/education meetings once a month. At this stage we may merge multiple groups in the same area to form larger groups. We will encourage groups to self-organise their own social interaction beyond the scope of the study and to consider doing activities together as part of their ongoing physical activity regime. Participants will be informed about local opportunities for physical activity in the community via our partners at each site and will be offered vouchers for taster activity sessions (supplied by our collaborators and partners, other local service providers /companies, including health walks, bowling clubs, dance classes, and Tai Chi). This will introduce people to a range of both free and pay-for activities that are available in the local community.

60-min. physical activity sessions + 20 min. social and educatin session continues once/week

Additional social and education meetings once a month to support the enactment of

action plans

REACT Ambassadors will:

  • Assist recruitment of new members

  • Assist with class record keeping

  • Assist peer class members with exercise or transport related queries

For more information, click here.

Participants are actively engaged in other physical activity opportunities in the community

Post intervention


REACT Ambassadors will help to sustain activities after the initial 12 months by organising group meetings and activities. Further ‘taster session’ vouchers for community based activities will also be provided, and participants will be offered the weekly REACT sessions at a subsidised rate (subject to agreement with providers). This menu of strategies is designed to build and establish a ‘brand’ that has wide appeal, attract media attention and become increasingly known through recommendation and word-of-mouth, which is the most successful mechanism of recruitment to community-based health promotion programmes. The Ambassador programme will promote growth and increasing sustainability. The pilot study will help to embed the intervention in the local community and (through word-of-mouth) facilitate recruitment for the main trial.

REACT aims to be scaled up nationally and implemented in a range of settings ensuring its successful translation to community programmes. During this study, REACT will be delivered in a wide range of community settings to which we have access via our extensive network of collaborators and partners. These may include sports centres but both the space and the equipment requirements for delivering REACT make the delivery of the intervention feasible in any community facility including church halls and other community centres. These may be more appealing to older people than sports centres which usually promote a young, elite sport and performance focused image more appealing to younger populations.

Control Arm

After completion of baseline assessments, participants allocated to the control group will be given information regarding events and activities in their local community. They will be invited to one 60-minute group session where they will receive information on a variety of healthy ageing topics including prevention and health care. After the completion of the six month assessment, control participants will be invited to a further 60-minute group social/education session. Between the 12 and 24-month data collection sessions, controls will be invited to a further 60-minute group session. After 24-month data collection, controls will be provided with more information about health and well-being focussing on active living and importance of functional ability, and taster session vouchers for activities in their local community.