Objectives: A stepped-down program is one where clients transition from the care of a health professional to self-managed care. This study reviewed the effectiveness of stepped-down interventions to promote self-managed physical activity for health in military service veterans.
Design: Systematic review.
Methods: Literature searches of 11 electronic databases were performed (up to 28th April 2020) to identify randomised controlled trials that assessed self-managed physical activity interventions in military service veterans. Data were extracted on study characteristics, intervention programs (with strategies mapped against a taxonomy of behaviour change techniques), and physical activity outcomes; secondary outcomes were physical fitness/function, psychosocial health, and cost effectiveness. Study quality was assessed using a 15-item checklist adapted from the TESTEX scale. Results: Searches identified 26 studies (all from the United States; N = 45 to 531 participants) representing 17 intervention programs. Studies were of good quality (M = 10.7; SD = 2.3). More than half (54%) reported positive between-group intervention effects for physical activity outcomes (mean increase of 80 min/week in self-reported physical activity at 10–12 months). Physical fitness/function outcomes improved in 38% of studies, but no studies found significant intervention effects for psychosocial health or cost effectiveness outcomes. Behaviour change techniques most frequently used to elicit physical activity changes were education, goal setting, goal review and self-monitoring.
Conclusions: Stepped-down programs that include specific behaviour change techniques have the potential to promote self-management of physical activity in military service veterans. Multi-national randomised controlled trials that use objective physical activity measures are needed to further build the evidence base.