Barriers to and benefits of leisure time physical activity in the elderly: differences across cultures

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2003 Jun;51(6):863-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2389.2003.51271.x.


The purpose of this study was to compare ethnic differences in attitudes toward barriers and benefits of leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) in sedentary elderly Mexican (MAs) and European Americans (EAs). An in-home, cross-sectional survey was performed on 210 community-dwelling elders from 10 primary care practices in south Texas that are part of the South Texas Ambulatory Research Network, a practice-based research network. Analytical variables included ethnicity, age, sex, income, education, marital status, and LTPA. Fisher exact test was used to analyze the 100 sedentary elders (LTPA <500 kcal/wk; 63 MAs and 37 EAs). Self-consciousness and lack of self-discipline, interest, company, enjoyment, and knowledge were found to be the predominant barriers to LTPA in both groups. Both groups held similar beliefs about benefits gained from exercise, such as improved self-esteem, mood, shape, and health, but the beliefs about the positive benefits of exercise were more prevalent in MAs. These findings remained after adjusting for age, income, education, marital status, and sex. Some might think that a major barrier lies in misconception about benefits of LTPA, but in this study, both ethnic groups were accurate in their perceived benefits of LTPA. When attempting to engage elderly in LTPA, it is important not only to consider what barriers exist but also what beliefs about the benefits exist.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Behavior / ethnology*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Male
  • Mexican Americans / psychology*
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Texas
  • White People / psychology*