Contributors to Lifelong Moderate Physical Activity in the Lives of Women
Lang, Rebecca Jessen
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The Problem. We know little about what makes people lifelong physlcal exercisers. We have an understanding of the benefits and the barriers of physical activity but we have not examined the life stories of lifelong physical movers, especially females. Procedures. Two in-depth life history interviews of eight women were conducted to identify and understand the contributors to sustained physical activity and the role physical activity has played in the lives of lifelong physically active women between 58-72 years of age. A combination of snowball and theoretical non-probability sampling techniques were used to initiate contact with participants. The grounded theory approach was utilized. Data were analyzed using content and constant comparative analysis. Findings. Six themes, supported by subthemes, emerged from analysis of the data. The participants: perceived themselves as physically active, lead physically active lives from childhood through adulthood, related more to father than mother, loved the outdoors, perceived few barriers, and perceived benefits of physical activity. They did not like to sit and enjoyed the feeling of movement. They believed their motivation for physical activity was genetic; they were just like their fathers. The wave theory of physical activity emerged from the data which was supported by the findings that the participants engaged in moderate physical activity through out their life, and they never perceived themselves to be sedentary individuals. Conclusions. To increase the probability that females will be lifelong physical movers several factors need to be incorporated into their lives. These factors include: providing early positive physical activities for children through play groups, family, and school activities, participating in outdoor activities and providing community resources. The support from a father is an important factor in sustaining lifelong physical activity although the magnitude of this factor is unclear. Perhaps most importantly, emphasizing moderate physical activities rather than vigorous activities may enhance the likelihood that women will be lifelong movers. Recommendations. Testing the wave theory with empirical studies, verification of findings across a larger population, and examination of intensity levels that contribute to lifelong activity are areas that need further study.
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