, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 203-211
Date: 26 Jul 2005

Older Adults' Perspectives on Screening Prior to Initiating an Exercise Program

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The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of older adults with screening prior to starting an exercise program (structured or unstructured), and the impact this had on their willingness to engage in physical activity. This was a qualitative study using a focus group methodology. Focus groups were conducted in regionally dispersed sites in which exercise programs were ongoing or had been offered. A total of 122 older adults were included in this study, the majority of whom were African American (72%) with ages ranging from 50s to the 80s. An interview guide was used to facilitate each of the focus groups. Seventeen codes were identified and were reduced to 4 major themes: (1) Description of screening experienced; (2) Perception of purpose or need for screening; (3) Benefits of screening; and (4) Screening as a barrier to exercise. The participants indicated that there were some benefits associated with screening, such as safety assurances, although screening was also noted to be a barrier to exercising. Older adults who were already active, or had regular health care, believed that “screening” was not necessary. Pre-activity screening has different meanings for older adults depending on their own personal situations, resulting in potentially different motivational implications for adopting more active lives. For many, screening increased their sense of confidence and served as a positive motivator. Others felt that screening was irrelevant and actually hindered one's ability to join an activity group. We conclude with recommendations for refocusing future screening guidelines and suggestions for future research.