Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Focus Groups to Explore the Perceptions of Older Adults on a Pedometer-Based Intervention

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Focus Groups to Explore the Perceptions of Older Adults on a Pedometer-Based Intervention

Article excerpt

Focus group methodology was used to explore in depth the perceptions of older adults who had participated in a 12-week pedometer-based intervention. Nineteen women and 8 men, ages 55-86 years, volunteered to take part in the focus groups following participation in the intervention. Four focus groups of six to eight participants were scheduled at primary sites in the southern Maine area. Analysis of the data revealed four specific topical areas: (a) factors that led to increases in daily step count, (b) factors that hindered increases in daily step count, (c) benefits of pedometer intervention program, and (d) recommendations on how to improve older adults' physical activity. Overall, focus group participants found this intervention to be beneficial and recommended its expansion to other groups.

Key words: physical activity, qualitative research, walking


Physical activity has been recognized as "perhaps the most universal and effective treatment for chronic illness and disability in late life" (Bean, Vora, & Frontera, 2004, p. S31). However, despite such benefits, the majority of older adults do not engage in adequate levels of physical activity (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2002). Considering an increasing aging population accompanied by chronic illness, the importance of research studies seeking effective and low cost interventions to increase and/or maintain physical activity levels of older adults cannot be underestimated. Holistic interventions targeting the physical as well as the cognitive, emotional, and social domains need to be explored across related disciplines.

Walking has long been considered an essential type of physical activity fundamental to all daily activities (Tudor-Locke & Bassett, 2004). Research has focused on pedometer use for objectively measuring daily steps to increase physical activity levels (Croteau, Richeson, Vines, & Jones, 2004; Tudor-Locke, Jones, Myers, Paterson, & Ecclestone, 2004).

A review of the literature reveals that most pedometer-based interventions have been quantitative. Pedometer-based intervention research has focused on the measurement and explanation of variables such as counseling interventions (Aittasalo, Miilunpalo, Kukkonen-Harjula, & Pasanen, 2006; deBlok et al., 2006) physical activity outcomes, as measured by the pedometer, or other health-related outcomes. Heesch, Dinger, McClary, and Rice (2005) used focus group methodology to explore the experiences of women, ages 31 to 51 years, who were involved in a minimal contact pedometer-based intervention. Focus group participants reported that wearing pedometers helped them "set goals and motivated them to increase their physical activity" (p. 98).

The purpose of this study was to explore in depth the perceptions of participants who had been involved in a pedometer-based walking program and the program's effects on their physical activity. Crotean, Richeson, Farmer, and Jones (2007) determined that a pedometer-based intervention was effective in increasing participants' daily steps counts; however they added that "it is difficult to ascertain the specific components that contributed to participants' increase in physical activity" (p. 12) and recommended using focus groups to explore participants' perceptions. Specifically, by using a focus group methodology this study sought to better understand participants' experiences in a 12-week intervention that consisted of wearing a pedometer, setting goals, selecting strategies to meet goals, self-monitoring (record keeping), and attending monthly meetings.


For this study, we used a phenomenological research design, defined by Creswell (1998) as an approach that "describes the meaning of experiences of a phenomenon for several individuals" (p. 236). We used focus group methodology, because it (a) enables researchers to explore research questions in greater detail within a social context, (b) is designed to include a limited number of individuals who share common characteristics relevant to the study, and (c) provides data from both individual responses and the interplay that occurs within the group context (Creswell, 1998; Morgan, 1988). …

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