Motivational Barriers and Resources for Physical Activity Among Older People

  • Verena Klusmann
  • Nanna Notthoff


Introducing central concepts related to motivational resources for and barriers to physical activity in older adults, this chapter focuses on the degree of identification with physical activity (self-identity and autonomous vs. controlled motivation) and impressions regarding the social environment (subjective norms), one’s personal development (self-perceptions of ageing), vulnerability of one’s health (risk perceptions), and the activity behaviour itself (outcome expectancies). It will become evident that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Rather, different approaches should be combined and tailored to individual dispositions.


  1. Adriaanse, M. C., Twisk, J. W., Dekker, J. M., Spijkerman, A. M., Nijpels, G., Heine, R. J., & Snoek, F. J. (2008). Perceptions of risk in adults with a low or high risk profile of developing type 2 diabetes; A cross-sectional population-based study. Patient Education and Counseling, 73, 307–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Appleby, K. M., & Dieffenbach, K. (2016). “Older and faster”: Exploring elite masters cyclists’ involvement in competitive sport. Sport Psychologist, 30, 13–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Atkinson, J. W. (1957). Motivational determinants of risk-taking behavior. Psychological Review, 64, 359–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bauer, I., Wrosch, C., & Jobin, J. (2008). I’m better off than most other people: The role of social comparisons for coping with regret in young adulthood and old age. Psychology and Aging, 23, 800–811.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beck, F., Gillison, F., & Standage, M. (2010). A theoretical investigation of the development of physical activity habits in retirement. British Journal of Health Psychology, 15, 663–679.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brenes, G. A., Strube, M. J., & Storandt, M. (1998). An application of the theory of planned behavior to exercise among older adults. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 28, 2274–2290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carstensen, L. L., & Mikels, J. A. (2005). At the intersection of emotion and cognition: Aging and the positivity effect. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 117–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Conner, M., McEachan, R., Taylor, N., O’Hara, J., & Lawton, R. (2015). Role of affective attitudes and anticipated affective reactions in predicting health behaviors. Health Psychology, 34, 642–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dean, R. N., Farrell, J. M., Kelley, M. L., Taylor, M. J., & Rhodes, R. E. (2007). Testing the efficacy of the theory of planned behavior to explain strength training in older adults. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 15(1), 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Self-determination theory: A macrotheory of human motivation, development, and health. Canadian Psychology, 49, 182–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ditto, P. H. (2009). Passion, reason, and necessity a quantity-of-processing view of motivated reasoning. In T. Bayne & J. Fernández (Eds.), Delusion and self-deception: Affective and motivational influences on belief formation (pp. 23–53). New York: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  13. Ebner, N. C., Freund, A. M., & Baltes, P. B. (2006). Developmental changes in personal goal orientation from young to late adulthood: From striving for gains to maintenance and prevention of losses. Psychology and Aging, 21, 664–678.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Evers, A., Klusmann, V., Ziegelmann, J. P., Schwarzer, R., & Heuser, I. (2012). Long-term adherence to a physical activity intervention: The role of telephone-assisted vs. self-administered coping plans and strategy use. Psychology & Health, 27, 784–797.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ferrand, C., Nasarre, S., Hautier, C., & Bonnefoy, M. (2012). Aging and well-being in French older adults regularly practicing physical activity: A self-determination perspective. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 20, 215–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ferrand, C., Martinent, G., & Bonnefoy, M. (2014). Exploring motivation for exercise and its relationship with health-related quality of life in adults aged 70 years and older. Ageing and Society, 34, 411–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fischhoff, B., Bostrom, A., & Quadrel, M. J. (2000). Risk perception and communication. In T. Connolly, H. R. Arkes, & K. R. Hammond (Eds.), Judgment and decision making: An interdisciplinary reader (pp. 479–499). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Friederichs, S. A., Oenema, A., Bolman, C., & Lechner, L. (2015). Long term effects of self-determination theory and motivational interviewing in a web-based physical activity intervention: Randomized controlled trial. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 12(1), 1–12.Google Scholar
  19. Galea, M. N., & Bray, S. R. (2006). Predicting walking intentions and exercise in individuals with intermittent claudication: An application of the theory of planned behavior. Rehabilitation Psychology, 51, 299–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gamp, M., & Renner, B. (2015). Experience-based health risk feedback and lack of reassurance. Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine, 3, 410–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gecas, V., & Burke, P. J. (1995). Self and identity. In K. Cook, G. A. Fine, & J. S. House (Eds.), Sociological perspectives in social psychology (pp. 41–67). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  22. Gellert, P., Ziegelmann, J. P., & Schwarzer, R. (2012). Affective and health-related outcome expectancies for physical activity in older adults. Psychology & Health, 27, 816–828.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gellert, P., Ziegelmann, J. P., Krupka, S., Knoll, N., & Schwarzer, R. (2014). An age-tailored intervention sustains physical activity changes in older adults: A randomized controlled trial. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 21, 519–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gigerenzer, G., Gaissmaier, W., Kurz-Milcke, E., Schwartz, L. M., & Woloshin, S. (2008). Helping doctors and patients make sense of health statistics. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 8, 53–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gregory, C. O., Blanck, H. M., Gillespie, C., Maynard, L. M., & Serdula, M. K. (2008). Perceived health risk of excess body weight among overweight and obese men and women: Differences by sex. Preventive Medicine, 47, 46–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hahn, A., & Renner, B. (1998). Perception of health risks: How smoker status affects defensive optimism. Anxiety, Stress and Coping, 11, 93–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hamilton, J. G., & Lobel, M. (2012). Passing years, changing fears? Conceptualizing and measuring risk perceptions for chronic disease in younger and middle-aged women. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 35, 124–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hamilton, J. G., & Lobel, M. (2015). Psychosocial factors associated with risk perceptions for chronic diseases in younger and middle-aged women. Women Health, 55, 921–942.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hardcastle, S., & Taylor, A. H. (2005). Finding an exercise identity in an older body: “It’s redefining yourself and working out who you are”. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 6, 173–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Harris, P. R., Griffin, D. W., & Murray, S. (2008). Testing the limits of optimistic bias: Event and person moderators in a multilevel framework. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 1225–1237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Harwell, T. S., Blades, L. L., Oser, C. S., Dietrich, D. W., Okon, N. J., Rodriguez, D. V., et al. (2005). Perceived risk for developing stroke among older adults. Preventive Medicine, 41, 791–794.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hawley-Hague, H., Horne, M., Skelton, D. A., & Todd, C. (2016). Older adults’ uptake and adherence to exercise classes. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 24, 119–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Heckhausen, H. (1977). Achievement motivation and its constructs: A cognitive model. Motivation and Emotion, 1, 283–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Helzer, E., & Dunning, D. (2012). On motivated reasoning and self-belief. In S. Vazire & T. D. Wilson (Eds.), Handbook of self-knowledge (pp. 379–396). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  35. Horton, S. (2010). Masters athletes as role models? Combating stereotypes of aging. In J. Baker (Ed.), The masters athlete: Understanding the role of sport and exercise in optimizing aging (pp. 122–136). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  36. Jekauc, D. (2015). Enjoyment during exercise mediates the effects of an intervention on exercise adherence. Psychology, 6, 48–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Klusmann, V., Evers, A., Schwarzer, R., & Heuser, I. (2012). Views on aging and emotional benefits of physical activity: Effects of an exercise intervention in older women. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 13, 236–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Klusmann, V., Musculus, L., Sproesser, G., & Renner, B. (2016). Fulfilled emotional outcome expectancies enable successful adoption and maintenance of physical activity. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1990.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Koeneman, M. A., Verheijden, M. W., Chinapaw, M. J., & Hopman-Rock, M. (2011). Determinants of physical activity and exercise in healthy older adults: A systematic review. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 8, 142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kotter-Grühn, D. (2015). Changing negative views of aging: Implications for intervention and translational research. Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 35, 167–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lee, M., Kim, M. J., Suh, D., Kim, J., Jo, E., & Yoon, B. (2016). Feasibility of a self-determination theory-based exercise program in community-dwelling South Korean older adults: Experiences from a 13-month trial. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 24, 8–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Levy, B. R. (2009). Stereotype embodiment: A psychosocial approach to aging. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 332–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Levy, B. R., & Myers, L. M. (2004). Preventive health behaviors influenced by self-perceptions of aging. Preventive Medicine, 39, 625–629.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Levy, B. R., Slade, M. D., Kunkel, S. R., & Kasl, S. V. (2002). Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 261–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Levy, B. R., Pilver, C., Chung, P. H., & Slade, M. D. (2014). Subliminal strengthening: Improving older individuals’ physical function over time with an implicit-age-stereotype intervention. Psychological Science, 25, 2127–2135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lipkus, I. M. (2007). Numeric, verbal, and visual formats of conveying health risks: Suggested best practices and future recommendations. Medical Decision Making, 27, 696–713.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Loehr, V. G., Baldwin, A. S., Rosenfield, D., & Smits, J. A. (2014). Weekly variability in outcome expectations: Examining associations with related physical activity experiences during physical activity initiation. Journal of Health Psychology, 19, 1309–1319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Lucidi, F., Grano, C., Barbaranelli, C., & Violani, C. (2006). Social-cognitive determinants of physical activity attendance in older adults. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 14, 344–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Meischke, H., Sellers, D. E., Goff, D. C., Daya, M. R., Meshack, A., Taylor, J., & Hand, M. M. (2000). Factors that influence personal perceptions of the risk of an acute myocardial infarction. Behavioral Medicine, 26, 4–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Meisner, B. A., Weir, P. L., & Baker, J. (2013). The relationship between aging expectations and various modes of physical activity among aging adults. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 14, 569–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Miche, M., Brothers, A., Diehl, M., & Wahl, H. W. (2015). Subjective aging and awareness of aging: Toward a new understanding of the aging self. Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 35, 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Morris, B., Lawton, R., McEachan, R., Hurling, R., & Conner, M. (2015). Changing self-reported physical activity using different types of affectively and cognitively framed health messages, in a student population. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 2015, 1–10.Google Scholar
  53. Mullen, S. P. (2011). Perceptions of change and certainty regarding the self-as-exerciser: A multistudy report. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 33, 710–733.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Nusselder, W. J., Franco, O. H., Peeters, A., & Mackenbach, J. P. (2009). Living healthier for longer: Comparative effects of three heart-healthy behaviors on life expectancy with and without cardiovascular disease. BMC Public Health, 9, 487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Nyman, S. R. (2011). Psychosocial issues in engaging older people with physical activity interventions for the prevention of falls. Canadian Journal on Aging, 30, 45–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Perloff, L. S., & Fetzer, B. K. (1986). Self-other judgments and perceived vulnerability to victimization. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 502–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Renner, B. (2004). Biased reasoning: Adaptive responses to health risk feedback. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 384–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Renner, B., & Schupp, H. (2011). The perception of health risks. In H. Friedman (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of health psychology (pp. 637–665). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Renner, B., Knoll, N., & Schwarzer, R. (2000). Age and body weight make a difference in optimistic health beliefs and nutrition behaviors. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 7, 143–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Renner, B., Spivak, Y., Kwon, S., & Schwarzer, R. (2007). Does age make a difference? Predicting physical activity of South Koreans. Psychology and Aging, 22, 482–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Renner, B., Hankonen, N., Ghisletta, P., & Absetz, P. (2012). Dynamic psychological and behavioral changes in the adoption and maintenance of exercise. Health Psychology, 31, 306–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Rhodes, R. E., Kaushal, N., & Quinlan, A. (2016). Is physical activity a part of who I am? A review and meta-analysis of identity, schema and physical activity. Health Psychology Review, 10, 204–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Rothman, A. J. (2000). Toward a theory-based analysis of behavioral maintenance. Health Psychology, 19, 64–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Ruby, M. B., Dunn, E. W., Perrino, A., Gillis, R., & Viel, S. (2011). The invisible benefits of exercise. Health Psychology, 30, 67–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Sarkisian, C. A., Prohaska, T. R., Wong, M. D., Hirsch, S., & Mangione, C. M. (2005). The relationship between expectations for aging and physical activity among older adults. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 20, 911–915.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Schindler, I., & Staudinger, U. M. (2008). Obligatory and optional personal life investments in old and very old age: Validation and functional relations. Motivation and Emotion, 32, 23–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Schwarzer, R. (2008). Modeling health behavior change: How to predict and modify the adoption and maintenance of health behaviors. Applied Psychology, 57, 1–29.Google Scholar
  68. Schwarzer, R., & Renner, B. (2000). Social-cognitive predictors of health behavior: Action self-efficacy and coping self-efficacy. Health Psychology, 19, 487–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Sheeran, P., Harris, P. R., & Epton, T. (2014). Does heightening risk appraisals change people’s intentions and behavior? A meta-analysis of experimental studies. Psychological Bulletin, 140, 511–543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Slovic, P. (1987). Perception of risk. Science, 236, 280–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Slovic, P. (2000). The perception of risk. London: Earthscan Publications.Google Scholar
  72. Slovic, P., & Peters, E. (2006). Risk perception and affect. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15, 322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Slovic, P., Peters, E., Finucane, M., & MacGregor, D. G. (2005). Affect, risk, and decision making. Health Psychology, 24, 35–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Solberg, P. A., Hopkins, W. G., Ommundsen, Y., & Halvari, H. (2012). Effects of three training types on vitality among older adults: A self-determination theory perspective. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 13, 407–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Steinhardt, M. A., & Dishman, R. K. (1989). Reliability and validity of expected outcomes and barriers for habitual physical activity. Journal of Occupational Medicine, 31, 536–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Stets, J. E., & Burke, P. J. (2003). A sociological approach to self and identity. In M. R. Leary & J. P. Tangney (Eds.), Handbook of self and identity (pp. 128–152). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  77. Strachan, S. M., Brawley, L. R., Spink, K., & Glazebrook, K. (2010). Older adults’ physically-active identity: Relationships between social cognitions, physical activity and satisfaction with life. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 11, 114–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Stretcher, V. J., Champion, V. L., & Rosenstock, I. M. (1997). The health belief model and health behavior. In D. S. Goschman (Ed.), Handbook of health behavior research (Vol. 1, pp. 71–91). New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  79. Vallance, J. K., Murray, T. C., Johnson, S. T., & Elavsky, S. (2011). Understanding physical activity intentions and behavior in postmenopausal women: An application of the theory of planned behavior. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 18, 139–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Van ‘t Riet, J., & Ruiter, R. A. C. (2013). Defensive reactions to health-promoting information: An overview and implications for future research. Health Psychology Review, 7, 104–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. van der Pligt, J. (1998). Perceived risk and vulnerability as predictors of precautionary behaviour. British Journal of Health Psychology, 3, 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Van Hoecke, A. S., Delecluse, C., Bogaerts, A., & Boen, F. (2014). The long-term effectiveness of need-supportive physical activity counseling compared with a standard referral in sedentary older adults. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 22, 186–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Weinstein, N. D. (2000). Perceived probability, perceived severity, and health-protective behavior. Health Psychology, 19, 65–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Whaley, D. E., & Ebbeck, V. (2002). Self-schemata and exercise identity in older adults. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 10, 245–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Wolff, J. K., Warner, L. M., Ziegelmann, J. P., & Wurm, S. (2014). What do targeting positive views on ageing add to a physical activity intervention in older adults? Results from a randomised controlled trial. Psychology & Health, 29, 915–932.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Wurm, S., Tomasik, M. J., & Tesch-Römer, C. (2010). On the importance of a positive view on ageing for physical exercise among middle-aged and older adults: Cross-sectional and longitudinal findings. Psychology & Health, 25, 25–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Wurm, S., Warner, L. M., Ziegelmann, J. P., Wolff, J. K., & Schüz, B. (2013). How do negative self-perceptions of aging become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Psychology and Aging, 28, 1088–1097.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Verena Klusmann
    • 1
    • 2
  • Nanna Notthoff
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Psychological Assessment & Health PsychologyUniversity of KonstanzKonstanzGermany
  2. 2.Department of Human and Health Sciences, Institute for Public Health and Nursing Research, Division for Health Promotion & PreventionUniversity of BremenBremenGermany
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyHumboldt University BerlinBerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations