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Social influence and physical activity in older females: understanding channels & types



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The purpose of this study was to explore the channels and types of social influence that may be associated with physical activity in older females. The study used a mixed methods design. First, a qualitative study was used to confirm the channels and types of social influence perceived by older females as being important. The channels and types of social influence identified were then used to construct a questionnaire that was used in the second study to explore how the channels and types might be related to different levels of physical activity. In Study One, two focus groups were conducted with a total of 15 participants. During the focus groups, participants completed a circle map of influences relating to physical activity and then discussions followed using a semi-structured interview guide. These discussions were analyzed to verify the main channels and types of social influence. Three main channels were discussed: influences from family, friends, and healthcare workers. In terms of types of influence, obedience, compliance, conformity, and modelling were all mentioned in conjunction with at least one of the channels during the focus groups. In Study Two, 145 older females completed the Older Adult Exercise Status Inventory (OA-ESI; O'Brien-Cousins, 1996) along with a questionnaire designed specifically for this study to assess social influence channels and types. Factor analysis of the social influence items revealed five factors: family; friends - obedience/ compliance; friends - modelling; health care workers - obedience/compliance; and healthcare workers -modelling. These five influence factors and perceived health were included in a discriminant function analysis to predict level of physical activity. Results revealed a significant function (Wilks' lambda= 0.806, χ2 (6) = 18.38,p = 0.005), which explained 19.4% of the variance and correctly classified 70% of the sample. Perceived health and friends -obedience/compliance loaded with the active group (≥3 KKD; N=58) whereas family influence loaded with the insufficiently active group (≤2 KKD; N=32). These two studies provide preliminary support for the importance of channels and types as they relate to physical activity in older females. However, further research needs to explore these influences along with refining the social influence questionnaire developed for this study.





Master of Science (M.Sc.)


College of Kinesiology


College of Kinesiology


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