Older adults' experiences of group-based physical activity: A qualitative study from the ‘GOAL’ randomized controlled trial

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Abstract

Objectives:

In this qualitative study, we examined older adults' experiences of taking part in two efficacious group-based physical activity programs as part of the GrOup-based physical Activity for oLder adults (GOAL) randomized controlled trial.

Method:

In the GOAL Trial, 627 older adults were randomized to one of three conditions: similar age same gender (SASG), similar age mixed gender (SAMG), or ‘standard’ mixed age mixed gender (MAMG) control exercise group conditions. Participants in this qualitative study (N = 31; Nmen = 17, Nwomen = 14; Mage = 70 years) were purposively sampled from the two experimental conditions (SASG, SAMG) and involved in semi-structured interviews. The data were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results:

The results included 12 lower-order and three higher-order themes that reflected (a) the benefits and challenges of exercising with peers, (b) the group as a means of mitigating social isolation, and (c) group exercise and the physically active body.

Discussion:

Findings highlight the importance of social connections that exist within the age-matched physical activity programs, as well as some of the challenges for older adults participating in community-based physical activity programs. Implications for intervention, program planning, and future research are discussed.

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