The prevalence of physical activity among informal carers: a systematic review of international literature

Lindsay, Rosie; Vseteckova, Jitka; Horne, Jo; Smith, Lee; Trott, Mike; de Lappe, Joseph; Soysal, Pinar; Pizzol, Damiano and Kentzer, Nichola (2022). The prevalence of physical activity among informal carers: a systematic review of international literature. Sport Sciences for Health (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11332-021-00893-x

Abstract

Background: Previous research has found physical activity levels among carers are low, and that carers are at greater risk of physical inactivity than their non-carer counterparts. Alternatively, research also suggests providing care may be associated with higher levels of physical activity than the general population, due to physically active care duties. Overall, there is a need to better understand the physical activity levels of carers to develop appropriate interventions and policies to promote health and well-being among carers.

Aim: To systematically review studies reporting the prevalence of physical activity among carers.

Method: PubMed, SPORTDiscus, PsycINFO, and CINAHL, OpenGrey, Google and Google Scholar were searched for eligible articles.

Results: A total of 77 observational studies and 20 interventional studies were included. In low quality studies which examined adherence to physical activity guidelines, 16%-84% of carers self-reported not meeting PA guidelines, whilst medium-high quality studies found 29.9% -99%< of carers self-reported not meeting physical activity guidelines.

However, it is not clear if carers are at higher risk of physical inactivity than non-carers. Studies which compared the physical activity levels of carers to non-carers reported conflicting results, and the association between hours of carers time, burden or strain, and physical activity was not consistent across studies.

Conclusion: Further research with validated measures of different physical activity domains (leisure time, daily physical activity, caregiving duties), mental and physical health, is needed to better understand the physical activity behaviours of carers, and the associated health outcomes.

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