Background:The World Health Organization recognizes participation in meaningful life roles as a key component of health. However, the evidence base for interventions to improve participation remains inconclusive. In particular, whether exercise interventions improve participation in life roles is unclear. Purpose:The aim of this review was to evaluate the effect of physical exercise interventions on participation in life roles in older adults residing in the community. Data sources:The PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, Cochrane, and PEDro databases were searched from inception through March 2015. Study selection:Randomized controlled trials comparing the effects of an exercise intervention to usual care on participation in life roles in adults who were 60 years of age or older were included in this review. Data extraction:Teams of 2 investigators independently extracted data on participation. Methodological quality was appraised using the Cochrane tool for assessing the risk of bias. The protocol was registered with Prospero (CRD42014014880). Data synthesis:Eighteen randomized controlled trials with a total of 2,315 participants met the inclusion criteria. Standardized mean differences (SMDs) with 95% CIs were calculated using a random-effects model. A meta-analysis of 16 studies showed no overall effect of the exercise interventions on participation (SMD = 0.03; 95% CI = -0.10 to 0.16). Subgroup analysis showed that exercise interventions lasting 12 months or more had a small positive effect on participation (SMD = 0.15; 95% CI = 0.02 to 0.28). Limitations:Limitations included variability in definitions and measures of participation. Conclusions:In general, exercise interventions do not improve participation in life roles in older adults. The results do not support the implicit assumption that exercise-based interventions associated with improved function/activity also result in improved participation. Investigation of complex interventions that go beyond exercise to address participation in life roles for older adults is warranted.