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The role of group cohesion in the exercise behaviour of older adults.

by Paul Andrew Estabrooks
Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering ()


The general purpose of this dissertation was to examine the impact of social factors generally and group cohesion specifically on short and long term exercise participation of older exercise class participants. To achieve this general purpose four studies were completed. The purpose of Study I (n=200, M=68 years) was to assess older adults' perceptions of the role that social factors play in exercise behavior of class participants. Thus, using a qualitative approach, older adults were asked to identify their motives for and barriers to exercising. Study 2 (n = 75, M = 67.7 years) examined the predictive ability of four dimensions of cohesion to exercise participation at 1, 6, and 12 months. Study 3 (n = 33, M = 75.1 years) examined the effectiveness of a team building intervention (based on Study 2 results and designed to enhance class cohesion) for improving exercise adherence and return rates. Finally, the purpose of Study 4 was to initiate the development of a psychometrically sound questionnaire for the assessment of group cohesion within exercise classes for older adults. The results of Study 1 revealed that older adults rank functional fitness, general health, and social interaction as the three most important reasons for exercising in classes. Also, illness, weather, and competing activities were perceived to be the most frequently encountered barriers to attending physical activity classes. Study 2 showed that 3 measures of cohesion were significantly related to exercise class attendance at one month follow-up (Individual Attractions to the Group-Social, r =.29; Group Integration-Social, r =.36; and, Group Integration-Task, r = .26). Only Group Integration-Task was significantly related to class attendance at 6 (r = .25) and 12 (r = .25) months follow-up. Study 3 showed that Participants in the team building condition (a) attended more classes than the control (p < .05) and placebo ( p < .05) conditions and (b) had a higher return rate following a 10-week hiatus (93% versus 40%) than the control condition (p < .05). Five projects were undertaken to achieve the purposes of Study 4-the development of a cohesion inventory for use with older adults. In overview, the 21-item Physical Activity Environment Questionnaire (PAEQ) was based upon the Carron, Widmeyer, and Brawley (1985) conceptualization of group cohesion. Data from three samples provided preliminary evidence that the PAEQ possesses high internal reliability within each scale as well as content, concurrent, factorial, and predictive validity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

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