Leisure-Time Physical Activity and Sense of Community among Older Adults in a Group

Toni Liechty, Kelsey LeFevour, Andrew Kerins, Birgitta Baker, Robin Lizzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Research has documented that the majority of older adults do not meet the minimum guidelines of physical activity for health benefits and trends in fitness programming highlight the challenge of maintaining long-term participant involvement. Little research, however, has explored the potential for public parks and recreation programs to facilitate on-going participation in leisure-time physical activity. Objectives The purpose of this study was to explore the elements of a group fitness program that facilitated ongoing participation. Methods Data was collected through interviews with an instructor and 23 students in a group fitness class designed for older adults. The group fitness class was provided through a public parks and recreation agency. All interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed thematically. Results Participants expressed that their reasons for maintaining participation in the program were largely based on the positive social interactions that it facilitated. Data analysis revealed three themes: 1) participants valued the program as a space for making new friends and for maintaining existing or newly formed relationships; 2) participants valued the program because of its welcoming and non-competitive atmosphere which supported students of all backgrounds and ability levels; 3) as they continued to attend, the program provided participants with a sense of belonging to a community which was meaningful both within and outside the fitness class. Conclusions Findings highlight the importance of designing programs to address interpersonal motivations and foster community building as a means of promoting on-going engagement among older adults.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-46
Number of pages20
JournalRecreation, Parks, and Tourism in Public Health
StatePublished - 2019


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