Physical Activity Preferences of Middle-Aged and Older Adults: A Community Analysis

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Sara Wilcox
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Abby C. King
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Glenn S. Brassington
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David K. Ahn
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Physical activity interventions are most effective when they are tailored to individual preferences. This study examined preferences for exercising on one’s own with some instruction vs. in a class in 1,820 middle-aged and 1,485 older adults. Overall, 69% of middle-aged and 67% of older adults preferred to exercise on their own with some instruction rather than in an exercise class. The study identified subgroups—5 of middle-aged and 6 of older adults—whose preferences for exercising on their own with some instruction ranged from 33–85%. Less educated women younger than 56, healthy women 65–71, and older men reporting higher stress levels were most likely to prefer classes. All other men and most women preferred exercising on their own. The identification of these subgroups enables us to tailor exercise recommendations to the preferences of middle-aged and older adults, with increased rates of physical activity adoption and maintenance a likely result.

Sara Wilcox is with the Department of Exercise Science at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208. Abby C. King and David K. Ann are with the Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention at Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94304. Glenn S. Brassington is with the Department of Psychology at the University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211.

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