Discretionary time among older adults: how do physical activity promotion interventions affect sedentary and active behaviors?

Ann Behav Med. 2003 Spring;25(2):112-9. doi: 10.1207/S15324796ABM2502_07.


Investigation goals were to document discretionary time activities among older adults, determine whether time spent in discretionary activities varied by gender, and investigate whether participation in a prescribed physical activity (P) intervention increased the time that older adults spend in discretionary time physical activities that were not specifically prescribed by interventions. Longitudinal data were drawn from 2 published studies of older adults. Study 1 compared 2 PA interventions in healthy older men and women (N = 103, M =70.2 years), and Study 2 compared a PA intervention with a nutrition intervention in healthy older women (N =93, M =63.1 years). Participants in both studies completed similar assessments of their discretionary time activities using the Community Healthy Activities Model Program for Seniors questionnaire. Across both studies, at baseline, over 95% of participants reported talking on the telephone and reading as frequent sedentary discretionary time activities; over 80% reported visiting with friends and watching television or listening to the radio. Women engaged in significantly greater hours of social activities and household maintenance activities than did men (p <.05). From baseline to 12-month posttest, social, recreational, and household activities remained stable by gender and across time after participating in a PA intervention. Despite previously documented 2- to 3-hr increases in physical activities occurring in response to the study interventions, increases did not generalize for most participants to activities not prescribed by the intervention. Older adults are participating in numerous sedentary social and recreational activities that appear to remain stable across time and in the face of PA intervention prescriptions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*