Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Human Development and Family Studies


Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

Phillip Clark


Despite the significant health and quality of life benefits of exercise, more than 40% of the older adult population in America do not participate in any dedicated physical activity. As the number of older adults grows, it becomes increasingly important to meet the public health challenge to help seniors adopt and maintain exercise behavior in order enhance the overall well being of this population. The purpose of this study is to qualitatively explore the applicability of the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change with respect to exercise adoption and maintenance among older adults and to identify the processes of change used by this population. Six focus groups, three "exercising" and three "non-exercising" groups of sixty-six older adults, were conducted at various senior centers, apartment complexes, and athletic facilities throughout Rhode Island. The majority of participants (n=57) were female and 65 or older. Qualitative analysis confirmed the use of 7 out of the 10 processes proposed in the Transtheoretical Model and the predominant use of experiential processes (consciousness raising, dramatic relief, self-reevaluation, and social liberation) and helping relationships by those in the action and maintenance stages. Particularly salient was a physician's recommendation to exercise following the diagnosis of a major personal health problem. Results indicate that use of behavior change processes employed by this population may not mirror those theorized. Implications from these focus group data can be useful in the development of exercise interventions for older adults in all stages of exercise behavior. Based on the results of this study, it appears that timing and increasing the frequency of physician recommendations and increasing the availability and accessibility of group exercise programs could increase exercise participation among older adults.



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