Extending research on self-regulation of physical activity in older age: Role of views on aging within an intensive ambulatory assessment scheme
Objective: Despite the well-known beneficial effects of physical activity (PA), many individuals lead a sedentary lifestyle in older age. This study aimed to examine the self-regulative role of individual views on aging for planning and implementing PA goals among retired, healthy older adults. We hypothesized that aging-related cognitions (regarding physical decline, social loss, and continuous growth), as well as subjective age, are relevant predictors of PA. We furthermore explored their predictive value over and above the intention to be active, an established predictor derived from the “Theory of Planned Behavior”. Method: N=40 retired participants aged 60 to 74 years wore commercially available activity monitors (Fitbit Charge HR) that tracked daily steps and moderate to vigorous PA on 14 consecutive days. Social-cognitive variables, views on aging and health complaints were assessed during home visits. Associations between variables were analyzed using hierarchical regression analyses. Results: Even after accounting for the intention to be active, views on aging explained additional variance of PA, indicating that participants who viewed aging as a process of social loss walked fewer steps per day. Against expectations, individuals who regarded aging as an inevitable process of physical decline and who felt older than their chronological age showed higher PA levels. Conclusion: Our findings underline that beliefs about the aging process affect the ability to self-regulate actions related to PA in older adults. We even found evidence for possible paradoxical effects. Further research on long-term effects and underlying mechanisms that relate views on aging to PA is needed.