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Objective: HIV-infected older adults (HOA) are at risk of functional decline. Interventions promoting physical activity that can attenuate functional decline and are easily translated into the HOA community are of high priority. We conducted a randomized, controlled clinical trial to evaluate whether a physical activity counseling intervention based on self-determination theory (SDT) improves physical function, autonomous motivation, depression and the quality of life (QOL) in HOA. Method: In total, 67 community-dwelling HOA with mild-to-moderate functional limitations were randomized to 1 of 2 groups: a physical activity counseling group or the usual care control group. We used SDT to guide the development of the experimental intervention. Outcome measures that were collected at baseline and final study visits included a battery of physical function tests, levels of physical activity, autonomous motivation, depression, and QOL. Results: The study participants were similar in their demographic and clinical characteristics in both the treatment and control groups. Overall physical performance, gait speed, measures of endurance and strength, and levels of physical activity improved in the treatment group compared to the control group (p < .05). Measures of autonomous regulation such as identified regulation, and measures of depression and QOL improved significantly in the treatment group compared with the control group (p < .05). Across the groups, improvement in intrinsic regulation and QOL correlated with an improvement in physical function (p < .05). Conclusion: Our findings suggest that a physical activity counseling program grounded in SDT can improve physical function, autonomous motivation, depression, and QOL in HOA with functional limitations.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Journal Article

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