Sustaining or declining physical activity: Reports from an ethnically diverse sample of older adults
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Over 80% of adults in the US fail to meet the ≥150 min weekly physical activity guideline; 40% age ≥ 75 are entirely inactive. The study purpose was to understand the reasons why community-dwelling older adults (age ≥ 60) from diverse backgrounds increase, sustain, or decline in their physical activity levels over time. Sixty-two older adults were interviewed. Two-thirds of the African Americans, 57% of the Afro-Caribbeans, and 50% of the European Americans reported being less active than 2–3 years ago. Reasons for activity decline included health issues (e.g., pain, shortness of breath), lack of time, interest, or motivation. Reasons for sustaining or increasing activity levels included meeting personal goals, having a purpose for remaining active, or feeling better when active (e.g., it is important to keep moving, good for the joints, going on a cruise). Themes identified were pride in maintaining activity, goal-driven activity, pushing oneself to get past pain or fatigue, and some confusion between social and physical activity in participant reports. The results indicate widespread acceptance that activity is beneficial, but that knowledge alone was insufficient to maintain activity levels over time unless individuals had a goal or purpose (“means to an end”) and could overcome their physical and psychological barriers to physical activity.
Tappen, Ruth; Vieira, Edgar Ramos; Gropper, Sareen S.; Newman, David; and Horne, Cassandre, "Sustaining or declining physical activity: Reports from an ethnically diverse sample of older adults" (2021). All Faculty. 376.