, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 51-62

Identifying Psychological, Physiological, and Environmental Barriers and Facilitators to Exercise Among Older Low Income Adults

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Little is known regarding barriers and facilitators to exercise among older adults in general, and low income and minority older adults in particular. This report summarizes the results of four focus group sessions with low income adults aged 55–70: one session each with African-American males and females, and White males and females. None of the participants was exercising at the aerobic level or frequency recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The type of physical activity and exercise most preferred by all groups was walking. Barriers and facilitators of walking varied considerably by gender, but tended to be similar for African-Americans and Whites. Environmental barriers (e.g., time, places for activity, sidewalk conditions, and weather) generally were not as commonly mentioned or apparently as influential as physiological and psychological barriers. These barriers were numerous among women and included perceived ability, and social discomforts and bodily pain or fear of pain. Men discussed motivation as their primary barrier, although shortness of breath was clearly an issue. Women, but not men, overwhelmingly endorsed group exercise, but only if the group consisted of “like” individuals. By virtue of its anticipated impact on motivation and self-efficacy, exercise prescription that assures some initial success appears to be the most promising facilitator.