"You Have to Keep Moving, Be Active": Perceptions and Experiences of Habitual Physical Activity in Older Women With Osteoporosis

Phys Ther. 2016 Mar;96(3):361-70. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20150131. Epub 2015 Jul 23.


Background: Physical activity (PA) is essential for older adults with osteoporosis, and health care professionals play important roles in promoting PA and encouraging patients to make healthy choices. However, many factors influence habitual PA, and there is only limited knowledge about the perceptions and experiences of PA among older women with osteoporosis.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to describe perceptions and experiences of PA and the factors that influence habitual PA among older adults with osteoporosis, impaired balance, and fear of falling.

Design: This was a qualitative interview study applying interpretive content analysis with an inductive approach.

Methods: Informants were a purposeful sample of 18 women, aged 66 to 86 years, with osteoporosis, impaired balance, and fear of falling. Individual, semistructured, face-to-face interviews were recorded, transcribed, condensed, and coded to find subthemes and themes.

Results: The overall theme found was "Physical activity--a tool for staying healthy with osteoporosis." This overall theme comprised 2 main themes interpreting the challenges and possibilities of being physically active with osteoporosis. These themes were not separate but rather linked to each other like 2 sides of the same coin, with factors that could act as both barriers to and facilitators of PA. Personal preferences and osteoporosis-related concerns influenced habitual PA, and individualization was perceived as important.

Limitations: Some results may be context specific and limit the transferability to people with other cultural or socioeconomic backgrounds.

Conclusions: The women perceived that PA was an important tool to maintain health with osteoporosis and believed that they had a responsibility to use this tool. They had adapted to disease-specific limitations and developed strategies to overcome challenges and barriers to PA. Lack of PA promotion and conflicting advice about PA from physicians created uncertainty. Encouragement and guidance from physical therapists, individually or in groups, were very important.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Osteoporosis / physiopathology
  • Osteoporosis / psychology*
  • Osteoporosis / rehabilitation*
  • Qualitative Research