Exploring older adults’ perceptions, motivations, barriers and benefits to a novel outdoor exercise initiative

Mrs Myrla Sales1, Professor Remco Polman2, Professor Keith D Hill3, Associate Professor Pazit Levinger1

1Institute of Sport, Exercise & Active Living (ISEAL), College of Sport and Exercise Science, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia, 2Department of Psychology, Bournemouth University, Poole, United Kindom, 3School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, Curtin University, Perth, Australia

 

Aim:

A unique purpose-built exercise park aiming at providing a fun but physically challenging environment for older adults to exercise in a community setting was designed. Thus, this study aimed to investigate the acceptability, barriers, enablers and perceived benefits in undertaking an exercise intervention using this novel outdoor exercise park designed for senior citizens.

Method:

A parallel randomised controlled trial with pre and post intervention design (assessments at baseline and at 18 weeks after commencement). Twenty-seven independent community dwelling adults (75.1 ± 7.9 years; 17 females; 10 males) underwent an interview after completing the 18-week exercise intervention. A thematic analysis approach was used to evaluate the content of the interviews.

Results:

Participants reported that the exercise intervention proposed was very enjoyable and with varied perceived benefits. The exercise intervention has been positively rated by the participants and they reported to be keen to continue participating on an intervention of this nature. The main outcomes perceived from their participation were physical (e.g., improvements in muscle strength, balance, flexibility and gait), psychosocial (e.g., improved social interaction) and psychological (e.g., improved confidence, well-being and reduced depression symptoms). Participants also perceived an improvement on their ability to perform their activities of daily living (e.g. climbing stairs, tying shoelaces and catching public transport).

Significance of the findings to allied health:

The outdoor exercise park program has been shown to be a well-accepted novel option for older adults to exercise outdoors and therefore might enhance exercise uptake, attendance and sustain participation in exercise programs for older adults in the community.