Background In 2019 the UK integrated strength recommendations into their Chief Medical Officer’s Physical Activity Guidelines (gov.uk). To our knowledge, it is unknown if older adults are aware of these guidelines and whether they are adhering to these recommendations. The purpose of this study was to offer a nuanced description of older adults’ awareness, understanding and participation in activities that meet the strength component, as well as their perceived motivators and barriers to strength training participation
Methods Older adults living in the UK (n=15, 70±3.3 years) volunteered to participate in one 30-minute, semi-structured, one-on-one interview on Zoom with the lead author. Study advertisements were placed in ageing charity e-newsletters. People who identified as 65 years old or over and living in the UK were asked to respond via email if interested.
Results 1. The Chief Medical Officers Strength Guidelines
None of our participants were aware of the strength recommendations
‘I honestly can’t say that I ever recall seeing that.’ (Male, 68 yrs)
Walking was the main modality for participants who believed they were meeting the strength guidelines
‘I think I’m more than meeting them because…
I do masses of walking…’ (Female, 71 yrs)
1c. Suggestions for Improvement
Adding more detail to the guidelines and separating the guidelines based on ability, rather than chronological age, was suggested
‘It’s a bit subjective as to what counts as building strength.’ (Male, 66 yrs)
2. Motivators to Strength Training Participation
2a. Location was a big enabler
‘And no excuse for not going to the gym, it’s 100 yards away’ (Male, 76 yrs)
3. Barriers to Strength Training Participation
3a. Enjoyment was the biggest barrier while unsupervised exercise required knowledge and motivation our older adults just didn’t have
When you’re doing your own rotation in the gym, you cheat, you have poor form, you don’t do it.’ (Female, 68 yrs)
4. Misconceptions of Strength Training
4a. An all-too-common misconception was that it was important to stop, slow down, and avoid vigorous intensities as one ages
‘You know, you always know, don’t overload yourself…I never push it.’ (Male, 67 yrs)
Conclusion Active, younger-older adults living in the UK report an unawareness of the strength guidelines. Future adherence reporting to the strength guidelines should be interpreted with an abundance of caution, as older adults are largely unaware of what activities fulfill this requirement. Researchers & practitioners can influence the many barriers to strength training participation, primarily with the dissemination of accurate information and providing age & ability-appropriate strength training prescription.
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