Motivators and barriers for physical activity in older adults with osteoporosis

J Geriatr Phys Ther. Jul-Sep 2015;38(3):105-14. doi: 10.1519/JPT.0000000000000035.


Background and purpose: Although physical activity (PA) is an important tool to counter osteoporosis, too few older patients with osteoporosis (OPWO) engage in PA. Little is known about specific motivators for and barriers to PA in OPWO, hindering the development of targeted PA promotion campaigns for these persons. Therefore, the main objective of this study was to identify motivators for and barriers to PA specifically in OPWO.

Methods: This qualitative study identified specific motivators for and barriers to PA in OPWO through 2 different methods: focus groups with professionals and in-depth interviews with OPWO.

Results: The OPWO tended to give a broad interpretation of what they considered as PA (practicing sports, physical work, and performing household activities), whereas the professionals seemed to mainly focus on (therapeutic) exercise as PA. Fifteen different motivators and 18 barriers have been identified. Among others, health improvement, social contact, habit, feeling good, and receiving medical advice from a medical doctor were motivators. Pain, fear of falling, bad weather, lack of interest, and caring for an ill partner were barriers to PA. For some older respondents, osteoporosis acted as a trigger for PA, and for others it was a barrier.

Conclusions: This study emphasizes the importance for health care professionals to give personalized PA advice regarding the nature and frequency of PA that is safe and beneficial for osteoporosis. It stands to reason that the information about PA needs to be clear and consistent. Furthermore, it is quintessential to mention that it can take some time to adapt to physical exercise and to experience the beneficial effects, because pain sensations during the first PA sessions can be perceived as barriers to OPWO. Misconceptions or barriers to PA should be countered by assessing motivators for and barriers to PA by the health care professional together with the older client so that barriers can be eliminated and motivators can be strengthened. Physical activity education should involve not only the OPWO but also their relatives, friends, and important peers. Different social aspects of PA and the encouragements from peers are stimulating for older adults to initiate and to continue PA. The results of our study can constitute a starting point for further research to identify the motivators for and barriers to PA with the highest impact on PA behavior in OPWO, thus enabling evidence-based PA promotion campaigns for this patient group.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Exercise / psychology
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Motor Activity*
  • Osteoporosis / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research