Rural older adult physical activity participation and promotion in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Given the relatively high rates of physical inactivity among older adults in Nova Scotia (NS) (Statistics Canada, 2011), the purpose of this study was two-fold: 1. To examine the physical activity (PA) beliefs, perceptions and experiences of rural older adults in rural Cape Breton, NS and 2. To examine municipal, regional, and provincial-level stakeholders’ perceptions of, and experiences with, PA promotion in NS. Data were obtained through semi-structured and group interviews with 20 older adults (Mage = 77.5 years, age range: 68-97 years) and 12 stakeholders (Mage = 49.8 years, age range: 33-74 years). Consistent with Corbin and Strauss (2007), elements of open coding and axial coding were used throughout the data analysis process, interwoven with ongoing data collection to produce an interpretive description (Thorne, 2008) of PA participation and promotion. Analysis resulted in the construction of two major categories. The first, “Factors that Influence Activity Prioritization” consisted of four concepts (“Historical Context of Activity, Work and Productivity,” “Already Busy with Day-to-Day Activities,” “Being/Staying on the Go,” and “Cautionary Approach”). The second, “Promoting Physical Activity Among Older Adults,” depicted strategies for the promotion of PA within the context of particular PA routines and prioritized activities. In terms of PA promotion, several factors appeared important including the prioritization of work-time/“productive” PA, conceptualizations of PA and norms, beliefs and perceptions of aging and PA. The findings of this study suggest PA needs to be culturally relevant and salient, identify a need for PA education and highlight the potential importance of associating the relevance of PA with respect to physical function. Furthermore, with respect to promoting PA among rural older adults in Cape Breton, it appears prudent to shift the focus away from conventional/traditional methods of PA promotion (i.e., LTPA). Although this study generates a host of additional questions that merit further explanation, it serves as an important step toward understanding the nature of PA participation and promoting PA among rural older adults in NS.
Date of Award2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Alberta
SupervisorJohn Spencer (Supervisor) & Nicholas L. Holt (Supervisor)

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