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Leadership in Physical Activity Groups for Older Adults: A Qualitative Analysis

Paul A. Estabrooks, Krista J. Munroe, Elizabeth H. Fox, Nancy C. Gyurcsik, Jennie L. Hill, Robert Lyon, Sara Rosenkranz, and Vanessa R. Shannon

The purpose of this study was to determine whether a theory-based framework could be used to deductively identify and understand the characteristics of motivational leaders of physical activity groups for older adults. Participants were 23 older adults (mean age = 78.5 ± 8.0 years, 65% women). An interview-guide approach was employed to elicit older adults’ thoughts on important characteristics of physical activity group leaders. The data suggested that effective leaders are those whom the participants feel are properly qualified, are able to develop a personal bond with participants, and can use their knowledge and the group to demonstrate collective accomplishments. It was concluded that the findings could be used to extend the leadership activities beyond the traditional technical performance and individual feedback to include activities of social integration. Furthermore, the conceptual framework identified can serve as a valuable tool in guiding future researchers in their examination of leadership in physical activity groups for older adults.