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A Pilot Study of Determinants of Ongoing Participation in EnhanceFitness, a Community-Based Group Exercise Program for Older Adults
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    Background and Purpose

    Physical activity has many benefits for older adults, but adherence is often low. The purposes of this study were to: 1) identify motivators and barriers for participation in EnhanceFitness (EF), a group-based exercise program; and 2) quantitatively examine the association between motivators, barriers and individual characteristics, and ongoing participation in the program.


    This was a prospective, cross-sectional study. We mailed a pilot, investigator-developed survey to assess motivators and barriers to exercising to 340 adults who started a new EF class, regardless of their attendance rate. We pre-coded surveys based on class attendance, with former participants defined as having no attendance a month or more before a four-month fitness check.


    Of the 241 respondents (71% response rate), 61 (25%) were pre-coded as former participants and 180 (75%) as current participants. The mean age of respondents was 71 and they were predominately female (89%). More than half of respondents were Caucasian (58%), and almost half were married (46%). Former participants reported lower total motivation scores compared to current participants (p<0.01) and had a significantly higher mean total barrier score (p < 0.001). The effects of 5 barriers (“Class was too hard,” “Class was too easy,” “I don’t like to exercise,” “Personal illness,” “Exercise caused pain”) and 2 motivators (“I want to exercise,” and “I plan exercise as part of my day”) were significantly different between current and former participants. Discrete event history models show dropout was related positively to ethnicity (Caucasians were more likely to drop out), and health-related barriers.


    In newly formed EF classes, participants who drop out report more program, psychosocial, and health barriers, and fewer program and psycho-social motivators. Total barrier score and health barriers significantly predict a participant’s dropping out, and Caucasian ethnicity is associated with a higher likelihood of dropping out.


    Employing strategies that address health barriers to participation could improve attendance rates for group-based exercise programs.

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    TL1 RR025016/RR/NCRR NIH HHS/United States
    TL1 RR025016/RR/NCRR NIH HHS/United States
    U48-DP001911/DP/NCCDPHP CDC HHS/United States
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