Acting One’s Age in Physical Exercise: Do Perceived Age Norms Explain Autonomous Motivation Among Older Adults?

in Journal of Aging and Physical Activity
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Background: The social identity approach proposes that the more older adults identify with the social group of “older adults,” the more they will conform to what they perceive as being normative exercising for their group. However, so far, it remains unclear why older adults adhere to these norms. Objective: This study evaluated whether perceived exercise norms are associated with higher levels of autonomous motivation according to the self-determination theory and actual exercise participation. Methods: A cross-sectional survey, either by regular mail or online, was conducted among 409 older adults in Flanders (Belgium). Results: Our analyses revealed that older adults who perceived more positive older adult norms for exercising were more autonomously motivated to exercise. In explaining 24% of their exercise motivation, older adults’ perceptions of the exercise norms for older adults predicted 6% of their exercise participation. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that social identity approach and self-determination theory can be meaningfully integrated.

Pelssers, Hurkmans, and Boen are with Physical Activity, Sports & Health Group, Dept. of Movement Sciences, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium. Scheerder and Vos are with the Policy in Sports & Physical Activity Group, Dept. of Movement Sciences, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium. Vanbeselaere is with the Centre for Social and Cultural Psychology, Dept. of Psychology, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium. Vos is also with the School of Sport Studies, Fontys University of Applied Sciences, Eindhoven, The Netherlands. Smits is with the Faculty of Social Sciences, Institute for Media Studies, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.

Address author correspondence to Filip Boen at filip.boen@kuleuven.be.
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