Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Role of Social Support and Self-Efficacy in Shaping the Leisure Time Physical Activity of Older Adults

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Role of Social Support and Self-Efficacy in Shaping the Leisure Time Physical Activity of Older Adults

Article excerpt


At a time when the proportion of older adults in the U.S. population is growing rapidly, the need for older adult services and geriatric health care has increased considerably (Himes, 2001). Escalating health care costs have placed pressure on U.S. public finances (Kingson & Williamson, 2001) and the benefits associated with older adult physical activity have drawn increased attention. However, about a quarter of the adult population still reports achieving no leisure time physical activity (LTPA) during the past month (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2005). A growing volume of research is documenting the health-related benefits (e.g., exercise, stress relief) of physical activity participation (Blair, Kohl, Barlow, Paffenbarger, Gibbons, & Macera, 1995; Hull & Michael, 1995; McAuley & Rudolph, 1995; Orsega-Smith, Mowen, Payne, & Godbey, 2004; Orsega-Smith, Payne, & Godbey, 2003; Pate et al., 1995; Penedo & Dahn, 2005; Raymore & Scott, 1998). According to these studies, parks and recreation services provide low-cost and accessible opportunities for increasing LTPA among older adults.

Since leisure is defined and redefined by succeeding cultures, it is natural that the subject matter of such research also evolves. In current society, rapid declines in the level of physical activity required in paid work, housework and personal care have made leisure a more salient arena for physical activity. The contributions of leisure behavior to active living are beginning to be documented and recognized by the medical and health community (c.f., Godbey, Caldwell, Floyd, & Payne, 2005). Thus, leisure research is being influenced by societal trends such as problems associated with sedentary lifestyles. As this happens, leisure and health researchers are collaborating in transdisciplinary efforts. Increasingly these efforts are recognized and leisure behaviors have been incorporated as part of the physical activity milieu.

Although the provision of leisure time physical activity programs and environments is a viable means to promote health and prevent disease, people commonly report constraints or barriers that limit their participation in LTPA (Arnold & Shinew, 1998; Bialeschki & Henderson, 1988; Jackson, 1983; Jackson, 1994; Mowen, Payne, & Scott, 2005; Scott & Munson, 1994; Walker & Virden, 2005). Furthermore, certain segments of the population (e.g., older adults) are more likely to be influenced by such constraints (Booth, Bauman, & Owen, 2002; Schutzer & Graves, 2004; Scott & Jackson, 1996). For these populations, special attention is now being devoted to understanding the intra-personal, inter-personal, and structural resources that can help them facilitate LTPA.

For example, a number of studies from the public health literature have found that self-efficacy and social support are important determinants of exercise and home-based physical activity (Dishman & Sallis, 1994). These concepts have been examined separately across a variety of contexts such as group exercise and home based physical activity programs. However, less is known about the collective effectiveness of these resources in influencing LTPA behaviors and whether such resources are important determinants of recommended LTPA levels for older adults. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to examine social support and self-efficacy in its relationship to leisure time physical activity.

Literature Review

Leisure Constraints and Constraint Negotiation

Leisure constraints and physical activity barriers have been examined in both the leisure studies and in the public health literature.1 With regard to leisure time physical activity (e.g., bowling, walking, exercise), a number of constraints (labeled as barriers in the public health literature) have been found to impact older adults' physical activity. Generally, these barriers have been categorized as personal and environmental (Clark, 1999; Sallis et al. …

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