What Motivates Older Adults to Improve Diet and Exercise Patterns?

J Community Health. 2016 Feb;41(1):22-9. doi: 10.1007/s10900-015-0058-5.


Dietary intake and physical activity are lifestyle behaviors that are learned, developed, and practiced throughout an individual's lifetime. These lifestyle behaviors have a profound role on health and quality of life--with late-life changes still resulting in notable improvements. Despite well documented benefits of behavior change, such changes are extremely challenging. The purpose of this study is to better understand from the perspective of older adults themselves, the factors that may influence their likelihood of making lifestyle changes. Participants were recruited two primary care clinics. 104 older adults ranging in age from 65 to 95 were included. Participants were interviewed about their motivations and plans to change diet and physical activity behaviors following a routine primary care visit. All interviews were transcribed and transcripts were analyzed using a line-by-line coding approach. Older adults reported that their likelihood of making a lifestyle change related to perceptions of old age, personal motivation, and perceived confidence in the ability to make effective changes. These findings suggest the importance of creating more positive images of old age and tailoring health promotion efforts to older adults' motivations and confidence in their ability to make behavior changes.

Keywords: Diet and physical activity; Health promotion; Older adults; Qualitative research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Diet / psychology*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Quality of Life
  • Self Efficacy
  • Socioeconomic Factors