One's sense of self over time, or identity, is an important component of well-being. Schemata formed from components of identity, such as an exerciser schema, have been associated with behaviors that promote physical activity. This study explored the process of exercise-identity formation in active older adults, questioned whether or not the term exerciser was a meaningful descriptor for their behavior, and examined whether self-views were mediated by perceptions of aging. Thirteen older adults (66–90 years) were interviewed. Results supported the contention that identity formation is a purposeful activity. Participants were more likely to ascribe alternative labels to their exercise behavior, and what it meant to be “old” mediated their perceptions of exercise. Results are discussed with regard to implications for interventions.
Whaley is with the Dept. of Human Services, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904. Ebbeck is with the College of Health and Human Performance, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331-8534.