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Promoting Active Aging Through Sports Participation: A Qualitative Exploration of Serious Leisure Among Older Chinese Adults

Wenting Zhou, Yajun Qiu, and Haibo Tian

China’s population of older individuals reached 264.02 million in 2020, an increase of 5.44% from 2010. This study explores how participation in serious leisure sports, which have enduring benefits for older adults, contributes to active aging. In-depth interviews were conducted with 15 older participants aged 60–78 years who had participated in a leisure sport activity for 1 year or longer. A thematic analysis was conducted, and four themes emerged: body improvements, positive emotions, optimistic life attitudes, and social interactions. Older adults who participate in serious leisure sports are empowered via practice and learning opportunities to engage with their aging bodies, pursue psychological benefits, and jointly maintain leisure groups. The findings of this study contribute to our understanding of the “rights-based” approach to active aging and allow us to identify serious leisure sports as an active way for older adults to improve their quality of life.