Master of Kinesiology (MKin)
Faculty of Science
The benefits of consistent exercise in the middle-aged adult (44 to 64 years) population has been well documented in existing literature; exercise can delay the onset and progression of a wide variety of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and, more generally, premature mortality (Dietz et al., 2016; Thornton et al., 2016; Waschki et al., 2015). Despite increased societal awareness surrounding the importance of exercise in relation to long-term health and longevity, middle-aged adults remain largely inactive. Additionally, there have been few studies that have used a qualitative methodology to give middle-aged adults an active voice in contributing to existing exercise behaviour change literature. This research examines the lived experiences of middle-aged adults who made a New Year’s resolution to exercise after having been previously inactive. The study aims to understand people’s perceptions towards exercise, the motivating factors for making their resolution, how their lives were impacted by this exercise and their presumed future relationship with exercise.
A phenomenological framework was used to guide this study, with a primary focus on people’s lived experiences with respect to exercise. Sixteen middle-aged adults (aged 44 to 61) completed four journal entries, six Godin Leisure-Time Exercise Questionnaires (GLTEQ) and one semi-structured interview administered by the primary researcher. The credibility of this study was strengthened through the use of a reflexive thesis journal, an interview transcript verification process and participant member checks, all of which were used in the interpretation of the data.
Six primary themes emerged from the data set: (1) “We never even called it exercise, ‘cuz it was natural”; (2) “They’re winning, I’m losing”; (3) My exercise mindset; (4) “It’s about finding myself again”; (5) “Taking care of your health is the best thing you can do for yourself”; and (6) “Putting my best foot forward.” These themes demonstrated that exercise was generally viewed favourably by participants after making their resolution to exercise, and that it was perceived to have had a positive overall impact on their lives. Similarly, improving one’s personal health status was cited as being the main motivating factor for getting active, as well as the area of life most positively impacted by exercise.
Overall, this study provides a unique phenomenological perspective into the exercise-related experiences of previously inactive middle-aged adults, as they started becoming more active. The study findings suggest that an understanding of people’s individual health circumstances may be important in promoting exercise in the middle-aged adult population. Similarly, this study showed that participants generally followed a similar exercise behavioural trajectory over their lifespan. Future research should aim to explore exercise identities in middle-aged adulthood and should look at specific strategies to encourage a more natural approach to exercise in this population. Additional research should look at middle-aged adults moving from a state of inactivity to a more active one and should seek to understand middle-aged adulthood as a potential time of life to re-introduce exercise in an effective manner.
McIlwraith, David, "FLIPPING THE EXERCISE NARRATIVE: An Exploration of Middle-Aged Adults’ Lived Experiences After Making a New Year’s Resolution to Exercise" (2020). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 2328.