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Title: Beliefs and attitutes about physical activity : an ethnographic study of older Caucasians and South Asians
Author: Horne, Maria
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2007
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Increasing levels of physical activity in older adults and fall prevention are key concerns of current UK health policy. Regular physical activity has many positive benefits for older adults, for example in fall prevention. However, sedentary behaviour among older adults is common. Forty per cent of over 50s in the UK report less physical activity than is considered necessary to maintain good health. Sedentary behaviour is even more common in South Asian older people in the UK. The aim of this research was to investigate the attitudes and beliefs that drive or hinder uptake and adherence of physical activity, in general and in relation to fall prevention, among 60-70 year old Caucasian and South Asian community dwellers. An ethnographic method was chosen as the research approach as it provided the framework for facilitating the incorporation of multiple voices. Two main geographical areas were chosen to conduct the study and included eight sites of study. Data collection used multiple methods (participant observation, focus groups and semi-structured interviews). In total 60 hours of participant observation, 15 focus group discussions (n = 87; mean age = 65.74 years) and 40 semi-structured interviews (mean age = 64.83 yrs) were conducted. Data analysis and classification followed a framework approach, comparing and contrasting themes within and across groups. Findings demonstrate that older people do not recognise falls as a risk and are not motivated to perform physical activity on a regular basis purely to help prevent falls. Social support and social benefits of physical activity appear to be key motivators to initiating and maintaining physical activity. Enjoyment, increased self-confidence and developing social networks seem to be important motivators in terms of adherence. Health, although a good motivator for the initiation of physical activity, appears to be a secondary motivator in terms of adherence. Barriers to physical activity include perceived and actual poor physical health, lack of social support, specificity of physical activity messages by health professionals as well as lack of motivation, low mood, fear of harm and domestic and carer issues. These findings suggest that older adults should be assessed individually, to address physical symptoms and possible low mood, and not according to age. The importance of exercise, even in the presence of physical illness needs to be explained. There is a need to promote confidence in older people’s ability to perform an activity, as this appears to be essential in continuing with exercise. Activities that take a ‘one size fits all’ approach, serve as a de-motivating force. Variety in exercise and physical activity is important to maintain motivation in the long-term.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Older adults ; exercise ; physical activity ; fall prevention ; health promotion ; ethnicity