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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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An Exploratory Study of Teachers’ Experiences in Physical Education With Children Thought to Have Developmental Coordination Disorder

Chantelle Zimmer and Janice Causgrove Dunn

Teachers can create supportive conditions in physical education to mitigate experiences of stress for children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD); however, most are unfamiliar with DCD and lack adequate training to instruct children with impairments. The purpose of this study was to explore teachers’ perceptions of and interactions in physical education with children thought to demonstrate functional difficulties associated with DCD. A semistructured interview was conducted with 12 teachers across all elementary years with diverse backgrounds and thematically analyzed. Four themes were produced. Teachers (a) had differing views on the etiology of children’s movement difficulties, though (b) all recognized a range of difficulties children demonstrated. They (c) believed it was their role to facilitate positive experiences for these children in physical education but (d) experienced challenges in doing so. Training that increases teachers’ knowledge of and abilities to address the needs of children thought to have DCD is warranted.

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Fundamental Movement Skills in Children With and Without Movement Difficulties

Chantelle Zimmer, Kerri L. Staples, and William James Harvey

The performance of various fundamental movement skills is important for children with movement difficulties (MD) to be successful in physical education and play. The current study aimed to provide a detailed understanding of the aspects impaired in the performance of static and dynamic locomotor and object control skills among children with MD, identified with the Movement Assessment Battery for Children, relative to their same-aged peers without MD. Children, 7–10 years, were recruited from three elementary schools. Eighteen children with MD (mean age = 9.14 years, SD = 0.97) and 18 without MD (mean age = 9.12 years, SD = 0.97) participated in the study. Quantitative and qualitative aspects of their movement performance were assessed using the Test of Gross Motor Development (TGMD-2) and PE Metrics. Children with MD demonstrated significantly poorer performance than children without MD for locomotor skills on the PE Metrics and object control skills on both the TGMD-2 and PE Metrics. The findings of this study suggest that children with MD primarily demonstrate immature movement patterns, inefficient movement strategies, and impaired aspects of movement that impact their performance for dynamic object control skills.

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Experiences in Physical Education for Children at Risk for Developmental Coordination Disorder

Chantelle Zimmer, Janice Causgrove Dunn, and Nicholas L. Holt

Children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD) may experience stress in physical activity contexts due to emphasis on their poor motor skills. The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of children at risk for DCD in physical education in order to develop a deeper understanding about what they experience as stress and how they cope with it. Using interpretative phenomenological analysis, six children in Grades 4–6 participated in two semistructured interviews. A motivational (and developmental) stress and coping theory informed interpretation of the three themes that described the children’s experiences: (a) they hurt me—psychological and physical harm sustained from peers, (b) it’s hard for me—difficulties encountered in activities, and (c) I have to—pressure to meet the teacher’s demands. Although the children at risk for DCD were confronted with various stressors in physical education, they coped more adaptively when social support was provided.

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Experiences With Social Participation in Group Physical Activity Programs for Older Adults

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

Little is known about how social participation can be facilitated among older adults in group physical activity and its psychosocial benefits that contribute to successful aging. This study aimed to understand older adults’ experiences with social participation in group physical activity programs. Using interpretive description methodology, 16 observations, eight focus groups, and two interviews with participants unable to attend focus groups were conducted with adults 55 years and older attending programs across four recreation facilities. Group programs were found to influence social participation through (a) a meaningful context for connecting and (b) instructors’ expectations of social interaction. Social participation in these programs addressed psychosocial needs by (c) increasing social contact and interaction, (d) fostering social relationships and belonging, and (e) promoting regular engagement. Training for instructors should include balancing the physical aspects of program delivery with the social, while also considering older adults’ diverse needs and preferences for social interaction.

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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.