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Synthesis of AARP Research in Physical Activity: 1999-2003

By the time they reach age 50, most Americans know what experts say they should be doing to stay healthy and fit, but few are acting on their knowledge. From 1999 to 2003, AARP conducted five different surveys and six sets of focus groups on slightly varying health and fitness topics, involving some 15,000 Americans age 50 or older. This report synthesizes the data from those studies and discusses major themes that may help guide program development and research in this area. Some of the findings are as follows:

  • Lack of knowledge is not the primary challenge. Indeed, knowledge levels are high, but acting upon knowledge is low.
  • People age 50+ are motivated by images they can relate to, not by elite senior athletes who make them feel discouraged or overwhelmed.
  • People view increasing physical activity as an extremely difficult, even daunting, task and need affirmation of their struggle and acknowledgment for any amount of effort.
  • Walking is the preferred exercise of a large majority, and for many it is their only form of exercise.

This report was a collaborative effort between AARP's Health team in State and National Initiatives and staff in Knowledge Management under the direction of Margaret Hawkins and Teresa Keenan. For further information, please contact Teresa Keenan at 202/434-6274 or Margaret Hawkins at 202/434-2201. (15 pages)

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