Older menCreative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No-Derivatives license 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/ by Lesley Brook

Active in older age

How might older men be encouraged to attend exercise programmes that improve their health?

Older men and women are both at risk of falls, but men are less likely than women to attend exercise programmes aimed at reducing this risk.  The social construct of masculinity may be a factor in this, but most studies about falls prevention focus on older women.

For her Master of Applied Science research, Laura Hogue met with older men in semi-structured focus groups to find out why they didn't attend exercise classes and what could be done about that. She included 23 older men in total, both older men who were not attending an exercise programme and also men who were. 

Her thematic analysis of focus group data was both inductive and deductive, informed by previous research. Men were motivated to exercise by both health and social benefits, or on a health professional's recommendation. Barriers to attending exercise classes which the men identified were:

  • Men's attitude to falls and managing risk: Some falls were not considered serious enough to warrant reporting or taking mitigating action. A focus on building strength and fitness, rather than falls prevention, may help overcome this barrier.
  • Men's approach to exercise and physical activity: They were aware of the benefits and liked to think of themselves as active, but the physical activities need to be meaningful for men.
  • A perception that exercise classes are for women. Having men only groups or clubs for exercise, and designing classes for men, are likely to help encourage men's attendance.