• Me Time, or We Time? Age Differences in Motivation for Exercise

      Steltenpohl, Crystal N.; Shuster, Michael; Peist, Eric; Pham, Amber; Mikels, Joseph A
      Background and Objectives Increasing exercise continues to be an important health issue for both older and younger adults. Researchers have suggested several methods for increasing exercise motivation. Socioemotional selectivity theory (SST) posits that people’s motivation shift from future-oriented instrumental goals to present-oriented emotionally meaningful goals as we age, which provides insight into how people’s motivations for exercise may differ for older versus younger adults. The aim of our study was to examine how exercise motivation differs for older versus younger adults. Research Design and Methods Older (greater than 59 years old) and younger (aged 18–26 years) adults participated in focus groups. They discussed exercise motivation (or lack thereof), motivators and barriers to exercise, and preferences about when, where, and with whom they exercise. Focus group transcripts were analyzed using direct content analysis and iterative categorization. Results Consistent with SST, younger adults generally preferred to exercise alone to achieve instrumental fitness goals, whereas older adults preferred to exercise with others. Additionally, older adults tend to consider peripheral others (e.g., strangers, acquaintances), as a positive rather than a negative influence. Discussion and Implications SST provides a framework for exploring age-related shifts in exercise motivation. Additionally, the positivity effect was reflected in how older adults evaluated the influence of peripheral others. Motivational messages could be tailored to increase health behavior changes by focusing on instrumental exercise goals for younger adults and exercise focused on meaningful relationships for older adults.