Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Let Me Play, Not Exercise!: A Laddering Study of Older Women's Motivations for Continued Engagement in Sports-Based versus Exercise-Based Leisure Time Physical Activities

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Let Me Play, Not Exercise!: A Laddering Study of Older Women's Motivations for Continued Engagement in Sports-Based versus Exercise-Based Leisure Time Physical Activities

Article excerpt

The benefits of regular physical activity are well documented (i.e., Health and Human Services [HHS], 2008). For the growing older population, physical activity provides an antidote for reducing or preventing chronic disease, reducing frailty, and improving quality of life. It is estimated that half of the physical declines associated with aging could be prevented with proper amounts of physical activity (O'Brien Cousins, 2003), yet less than 13% of Americans over the age of 60 continue to meet the recommended guidelines (American College of Sports Medicine [ACSM], 2006; HHS 2000). Reasons for inactivity are well known (O'Brien Cousins, 2001) and include such barriers as lack of interest, time, facilities, or knowledge, along with barriers such as pain, self-consciousness, fear of falling, poor health, and weather-related barriers (Cerin, Leslie, Sugiyama, & Owen, 2010; Crombie et al., 2004; Mathews et al., 2010; Moschny, Platen, KlaaBenMielke, Trampisch, & Hinrichs, 2011).

While barriers to activity have been closely examined, few studies have been conducted on older adults who are physically active and their reasons for continued participation (Kolt, Driver, & Giles, 2004). Individuals who continue to be active may share similar characteristics that prompt continued participation, just as nonparticipants often share similar characteristics (Raymore, 2002). In addition, other research suggest that one's motivation to engage in an activity (e.g., enjoyment of the activity, being outdoors, enjoying the feel of water when swimming) may be a more important predictor of continued engagement than the health benefits of the activity itself (Ainsworth et al., 2007; Frederick & Ryan, 1993; Salguero, González-Boto, & Marquez, 2006).

Activity choice is especially important since people make decisions regarding leisure time activities that could be problematic as well as beneficial (Ainsworth, Mannell, Behrens, & Caldwell, 2007). In other words, people can choose to be slightly active, moderately active, vigorously active, or go the opposite way and choose a sedentary activity. Since older individuals gain more leisure time through retirement or reduced working hours, choosing a leisure activity that is physically based may provide the opportunity to fulfill physical needs as well as fulfilling psychological needs of the individual (Tinsley & Eldredge, 1995).

When considering physical activity within leisure, it is important to differentiate between exercise and activity. Exercise is defined as a form of activity that is "planned, structured, repetitive, and purposeful in the sense that the improvement or maintenance of one or more components of physical fitness is the objective" (World Health Organization [WHO], 2010, pp. 52). This term often includes fitness classes, yoga, Pilâtes, resistance training, and aerobic exercises such as walking, jogging, swimming, and bicycling. Aerobic exercises typically move large muscles for a sustained period and are synonymous with endurance activities (HHS, 2008; WHO 2010). On the other hand, physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscle contraction that increases or requires energy expenditure (HHS, 2008; WHO, 2010). This definition may involve a range of behaviors including housework, gardening, climbing stairs, and leisure activities such as golf, fishing, and camping.

According to the Physical Activity guidelines (HHS, 2008), older adults should aim for at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week or an equivalent of one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week. Older adults can achieve these recommended levels of physical activity either through structured exercise activities or through leisure-time activities (including sport) that require both movement and some level of physical effort. Since individuals have a choice, and since sport and exercise provide the foundation for all activity recommendations (Kilpatrick, Hebert, & Jacoben, 2002), this research examines older women (>60 years of age) who have chosen to engage in either sports-based or exercise-based leisure-time physical activities. …

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