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Barriers to Physical Activity Participation in Older Adults: A Crosscultural Study

Kolt, Gregory S.1; Paterson, Janis E.1; Chadha, Narender K.2; Cheung, Vivian Y.M.1

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: May 2004 - Volume 36 - Issue 5 - p S322
Annual Meeting Abstracts: G-45 – Free Communication/Slide: Physical Activity, Health and Older Adults

1Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand.

2Delhi University, Delhi, India.


(Sponsor: Will Hopkins, FACSM)


Physical activity participation is an important determinant of healthy ageing in older people. Recent evidence shows graded health benefits of physical activity for the reduction of coronary heart disease, some cancers, type-2 diabetes, and injury rates (including falls in the elderly), and for the improvement of mental health. Despite the benefits of participation in physical activity, a large proportion of older people do not participate to levels conducive to health benefits. Little research exists on barriers to physical activity participation in older people. PURPOSE: To examine the barriers to physical activity participation in sedentary older adults in a multicultural city of temperate climate (Auckland, New Zealand). METHODS: Participants were 70 (34 male, 36 female) sedentary adults over the age of 60 years recruited from community groups for older adults spread across Auckland. Participants represented four ethnic groups living in Auckland: Tongan, Samoan, Asian Indian, and Pakeha (New Zealand European). Focus groups, which examined barriers to physical activity participation, were conducted in the first language of participants, were separated by gender and ethnicity, and were facilitated by a researcher matched for gender and ethnic group. The structured interview schedule for the focus groups was informed by self-efficacy theory, and transcripts were evaluated using a general inductive approach. RESULTS: The common themes that emerged for barriers to physical activity participation across all ethnic groups were lack of motivation or interest, the physical environment (including weather and facilities), and perceived physical and health limitations and concerns. Several cultural differences were identified. Compared to Pakeha, the Asian Indians, Tongans, and Samoans reported that aspects of their culture (e.g., not wanting other people to see them exercise), and societal and familial constraints (e.g., older people's role in looking after domestic needs of younger family members) were barriers to them participating in physical activity. In relation to gender, females from all groups reported that a lack of encouragement to exercise earlier in life still influenced their current habits. CONCLUSION: The current findings have implications for the development and implementation of physical activity programmes for older people. Particular attention should be paid to requirements of different ethnic groups when implementing such programmes. Supported by Auckland University of Technology Grants 01/153 and 01/172.

©2004The American College of Sports Medicine