Histories of competitive sports involvement, health beliefs, reasons for exercising, and personality were compared across three groups of older adults who varied according to involvement in physical activity. Based on questionnaire responses, 246 participants were classified as competitors, noncompetitors. or nonexercisers. Competitors exhibited a lifelong history of sports participation. Although nonexercisers and noncompetitors participated in sports during their childhood and teenage years, their involvement in competition decreased noticeably in their 20s and remained low throughout adulthood. Competitors rated exercise significantly more important than did nonexercisers and non-competitors and had more varied reasons for exercising. Nonexercisers considered reducing stress and improving mood to be less important reasons for exercising than competitors and noncompetitors. All three groups were found to possess high levels of positive and low levels of negative personality traits.
The authors are with the Department of Psychology, Washington University, St, Louis, MO 63130-4899.