Older adult perspectives on physical activity and exercise: voices from multiple cultures

Prev Chronic Dis. 2004 Oct;1(4):A09. Epub 2004 Sep 15.


Introduction: Increasing physical activity is a goal of Healthy People 2010. Although the health benefits of physical activity are documented, older adults are less physically active than any other age group. The purpose of this study was to examine barriers and facilitators to physical activity and exercise among underserved, ethnically diverse older adults.

Methods: Seventy-one older adults were recruited through community agencies to participate in seven ethnic-specific focus groups: American Indian/Alaska Native, African American, Filipino, Chinese, Latino, Korean, and Vietnamese. Groups were conducted in the participants' primary language and ranged in size from 7-13 participants. Mean age was 71.6 years (range from 52 to 85 years; SD +/- 7.39). Professional translators transcribed audiotapes into the language of the group and then translated the transcript into English. Transcripts were systematically reviewed using content analysis.

Results: Suggested features of physical activity programs to enhance participation among ethnically diverse minority older adults included fostering relationships among participants; providing culture-specific exercise; offering programs at residential sites; partnering with and offering classes prior to or after social service programs; educating families about the importance of physical activity for older adults and ways they could help; offering low- or no-cost classes; and involving older adults in program development. Walking was the exercise of choice across all ethnic groups. Health served as both a motivator and a barrier to physical activity. Other factors influencing physical activity were weather, transportation, and personal safety.

Conclusion: Findings from this study suggest strategies for culture-specific programming of community-based physical activity programs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged / psychology*
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asian / psychology
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Black or African American / psychology
  • China / ethnology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Ethnicity / psychology*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Promotion*
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / psychology
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Korea / ethnology
  • Leisure Activities
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minority Groups / psychology*
  • Motor Activity*
  • Philippines / ethnology
  • Social Isolation
  • United States
  • Vietnam / ethnology