A Meta-Study of Qualitative Research on Social Support Related to Physical Activity Among Older Adults

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Physical activity (PA) and social support have known benefits for the well-being and health of older adults, and social support is associated with PA behavior and positive affective experiences in PA contexts. The aim of this study was to synthesize qualitative research conducted on the experiences of social support related to PA among older adults (age ≥55 years). Following meta-study methodology, the authors searched nine databases and extracted information from 31 studies. Results were synthesized in terms of common themes and in light of theoretical and methodological perspectives used. The qualitative literature identifies supportive behaviors and social network outcomes which may be useful for informing how best to support older adults to be physically active. This literature rarely reflected the experiences of vulnerable populations, and future research should aim to further understand supportive behaviors which enable older adults to overcome barriers and challenges to being physically active.

Beselt, Patterson, McDonough, and MacKay are with the Faculty of Kinesiology, and Hewson, the Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada.

McDonough (meghan.mcdonough@ucalgary.ca) is corresponding author.
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