Motivating the elderly to exercise for mental health

walking with the grands

For older people, staying happy and young at heart increases longevity. How to do that? Clearly, regular exercise lessens depression in older people, researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden have shown this to be true. So what impacts the desire to exercise? Researchers have shown that self-determined motivation and perceived competence are importing motivating factors to get older people moving.

“We do not yet know for sure what the causal relationship between physical activity and depression is like. What is clear is that elderly people who are physically active are less depressed, but higher levels of depression can also lead to less exercise, and this suggests there is a mutual influence,” says Magnus Lindwall, associate professor in exercise and health psychology at the University of Gothenburg.

This study is following over 17,000 elderly people in 11 European countries who are average aged 64. “This study is one of the first to look at both how physical activity affects future depression and vice-versa, and how change in physical activity is associated with change in depression over time,” said Lindwall.

“An important question for the researchers to answer has been what motivates elderly people to be physically active. Modern motivational theories propose, for example, that individuals who feel that they are competent, that they can make decisions for themselves and have freedom of choice and that they feel social relatedness linked to physical activity experience a more internal and a less controlled form of motivation for exercise,” said Lindwall.

The number of people in Europe approaching age of retirement and the inevitable challenges of old age are increasing alarmingly. It could be that exercise is an excellent preventive approach so finding ways to motivate them is important.

Source: ScienceDaily, University of Gothenburg


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