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  • Author: Chantelle Zimmer x
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Social Support and Physical Activity in Older Adults: Identifying Predictors Using Data From the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging

Chantelle Zimmer and Meghan H. McDonough

This study examined which of nine forms of social support were the strongest predictors of physical activity in older adults, and to what degree these associations were moderated by eight demographic indicators of groups at increased risk of social isolation. Baseline data from 21,491 adults aged 65 and older who were participants of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging were analyzed using multiple regression. Greater social network size, social contact with network members, and participation in community-related activities predicted greater physical activity, whereas being in a domestic partnership and perceiving more tangible support to be available were negatively associated. The strength and direction of these associations varied by sex, living arrangement, and income. Given the findings, various forms of social support should be incorporated in physical activity interventions but tailored to meet the needs of different segments of the aging population.

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Instructor Social Support in the Group Physical Activity Context: Older Participants’ Perspectives

Lindsay Morrison, Meghan H. McDonough, Chantelle Zimmer, Cari Din, Jennifer Hewson, Ann Toohey, Peter R.E. Crocker, and Erica V. Bennett

Instructors in organized physical activity classes can be a source of social support through their relationships with participants, influence on participants’ interactions with each other, and design of activities. Grounded in interpretive description, the objective of this study was to examine older adults’ experiences of and their perspectives on group physical activity instructors’ supportive behaviors. Observations of 16 group physical activity classes (N = 295) and focus groups or interviews with N = 38 class participants aged ≥ 55 (n = 29 women) were conducted at four municipal recreation facilities in a Canadian city. Five themes shed light on how instructors provided social support: (a) supporting autonomous engagement, (b) developing caring connections, (c) fostering trust through expert instruction, (d) managing conflict directly and effectively, and (e) creating a climate where people want to go. Instructor training should consider older adults’ social support needs and help instructors embody behaviors that support continued physical activity participation, thereby contributing to healthy aging.