Physical Activity in Older Adults (By Candace Richardson)


There are many stereotypes surrounding older adults.  Many older adults are viewed as slow or not athletic.  However, there are still older adults engaging in physical activity.  Many individuals believe that as adults age, they are less likely to be physically active or engage in more than just walking to the necessary places they need to be.  This stereotype is common because older adults may lose mobility or motivation to be physically active.

The first study contradicts the stereotype that older adults are not active.  Huang, Lin, Hung, Chang, and Hung (2014) showed that adults who were more physically active had a better response time than those who were not physically active.  It was shown that older adults who exercise in a variety of ways and environments were also more likely to have a better response time than the older adults who either had a consistent exercise routine, or did not exercise regularly.  Huang et al. (2014), discovered that older adults who spent time exercising on a regular basis were more likely to perform better on the rapid tasks presented to them.  The purpose of this experiment was to determine if different levels of exercise altered the response time of the older adults.  There were 60 participants all between the ages of 65 to 75 years old with varying levels of daily exercise activity.  This was a cross-sectional design that used self reports as well as a few experiments to test reaction times.  The independent variable consisted of three levels, open-skill exercisers who were involved in sports such as table tennis or badminton, closed-skill exercisers who were involved in activities such as jogging and swimming, and irregular exercisers who did not typically engage in physically activity.  The results of this study showed that those who engaged in regular physical activity had faster reaction times than those who did not typically engage in physical activity.  This study found in conclusion that physical activity for older adults is associated in them having better neural efficiency and reaction times.  This contradicts the stereotype that older adults are not physically active as they grow older.

The second study also contradicted the stereotype around older adults not being active.  This study looked at the connection between perceptions around aging and levels of physical activity.  Emile, Chalabaev, Stephan, Corrion, and d’Arripe-Longueville (2014) wanted to examine the correlation between aging stereotypes and how that could impact the physical activities of older adults.  There were one hundred and ninety-two participants, seventy-eight of which were men and one hundred fourteen of which were women.  All participants ranged from 60 to 93 years old and lived in south France.  Participants were given a wide variety of questionnaires to fill out to determine their openness, theories of personal ability, a questionnaire about the stereotypes of aging and the frequency in which the older adult exercised, personal attitude toward their aging, and their actual activity level.  This was also a cross-sectional study that reviewed a variety of aspects within the older adults’ lives.  This study found that older adults who proved to be more open to experiences were more likely to have positive physical activity levels and a more positive attitude toward their own aging, stereotypes of aging that were more related to benefits, and a more positive physical self-worth.  This study found in conclusion that openness to experience was likely to correlate to older adults having a more positive outlook on their aging and be more physically active (Emile et al., 2014).  This contradicts the stereotype about older adults not being active.

The third study also contradicts the stereotype that older adults are not as active. This study looked into patterns of physical activity from older adults and the association with health benefits of a variety of activities.  This study also looked into interventions so that older adults may become more physically active.  Mooney et al. (2015) wanted to identify if there was a correlation between the types of activities older adults participated in and their health.  There were 3,497 participants all within the ages of 65-75 years old.  All the participants lived throughout New York City.  Each of the participants were placed into one of five categories.  The categories included “least active, walkers, domestic/gardening, athletic, and domestic/gardening athletic” showing how active these older adults were in their day-to-day lives (Mooney et al., 2015).  The participants were given a scale to rate their physical activity and were also asked questions regarding their individual and neighborhood characteristics.  This information was used to compare participants between themselves as well as participants located in different neighborhoods throughout New York City.  Results showed that participants in older adults living in high rise apartments were more likely to be within the least active group.  This study also found that those participants were also more likely to have lower self-reports on their quality of health.  Mooney et al. (2015) found that older adults that were in a higher income range typically reported a better health and were also apart of the more active group of participants.  This article contradicts the stereotype that older adults are less active.

The fourth article contradicts the stereotype that older adults tend to be less active than when they were younger.  Cardenas, Henderson, and Wilson (2009) had participants engage in “Senior Games” to see how the older adults prepared for the event.  There were 444 participants who filled out the survey for this study.  Participants ranged from 55-96 years old, a majority of whom were from the rural areas of North Carolina.  The surveys looked at the participant’s typical physical activity, participation in the Senior Games, and demographics of the participant.  Results found that participants were motivated by the games to become more active prior to the games so that they may perform better (Cardenas, Henderson, & Wilson, 2009).  This article contradicts the stereotype because these older adults were more active because of this program.

Each of these studies contradicted the stereotype that older adults tend to be less physically active as they age.  Whether that be from being apart of a program that encourages physical activity or if these adults are just wanting to be more physically active on their own.  These studies each show that older adults are not always sedentary as they grow older.  There are older adults who do not believe in the stereotype that older adults have to live an inactive.



Cardenas, D., Henderson, K. A., & Wilson, B. E. (2009). Experiences of participation in senior games among older adults. Journal of Leisure Research41(1), 41-56.

Emile, M., Chalabaev, A., Stephan, Y., Corrion, K., & d’Arripe-Longueville, F. (2014). Aging stereotypes and active lifestyle: Personal correlates of stereotype internalization and relationships with level of physical activity among older adults. Psychology of Sport and Exercise15(2), 198-204. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2013.11.002

Huang, C., Lin, P., Hung, C., Chang, Y., & Hung, T. (2014). Type of physical exercise and inhibitory function in older adults: An event-related potential study. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 15(2), 205-211. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2013.11.005

Mooney, S. J., Joshi, S., Cerdá, M., Quinn, J. W., Beard, J. R., Kennedy, G. J., & … Rundle, A. G. (2015). Patterns of physical activity among older adults in New York City: A latent class approach. American Journal of Preventive Medicine49(3), e13-e22. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2015.02.015



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