Investigating the psychosocial determinants of physical activity in older adults: A qualitative approach

Psychol Health. 2016 Jun;31(6):730-49. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2016.1143943. Epub 2016 Mar 10.


Objective: Despite the benefits of physical activity (PA), only one-third of older adults meet the recommended levels. The present study focused on psychosocial determinants of PA following retirement. Social cognitive theory (SCT) was used to better understand pre- and post-retirement adults' thoughts about PA, the reasons why some individuals are more active than others, and how PA is incorporated into daily life after retirement.

Design: Seven focus groups of older adults (N = 37, M = 64, SD = 5.20; males = 20) representing a range of PA levels and retirement length participated in one of seven focus groups.

Results: Aligned with SCT, self-efficacy beliefs along with perceptions about barriers and benefits of PA were among the major determinants of PA. Findings highlighted the importance of social support, positive outcome expectations and self-regulatory strategies as motivators. The lack of structure in retirement was a hindrance to incorporating PA into daily routine but, when incorporated, PA provided a sense of purpose in the lives of retired individuals.

Conclusion: It is important to understand the meaning of retirement as a life transition and how it affects beliefs about PA to inform SCT-based health promotion interventions targeting individuals in retirement age.

Keywords: barriers; enablers; retirement; self-efficacy; social cognitive theory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychological Theory
  • Qualitative Research
  • Retirement / psychology
  • Self Efficacy
  • Social Theory