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Open Access Research article

A gender perspective on factors that influence outdoor recreational physical activity among the elderly

Katarina Sjögren12* and Louise Stjernberg2

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences in Malmö, General Practice Lund University, Sweden

2 School of Health Science, Blekinge Institute of Technology, Karlskrona Sweden

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BMC Geriatrics 2010, 10:34  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-10-34

Published: 8 June 2010

Abstract

Background

Physical activity (PA) is part of a healthy lifestyle and prevents many chronic health problems, in addition to promoting mental health. PA performed outdoors has been found particularly good for promoting one's well-being. The aim of this study was to investigate the extent to which outdoor recreational PA was carried out during 1 year, and the factors influencing such activities from a gender perspective among persons ≥ 60 years of age.

Methods

This study included 999 individuals 60-96 years of age living in the south eastern part of Sweden. Data collection was carried out during the years of 2001-2003. We measured the amount of regular light and/or intense outdoor recreational PA performed during the last year and determined the probability of performing PA as a function of 10 variables covering individual and socioeconomic factors.

Results

Our results suggest that being independent physically and healthy enough to manage one's personal hygiene and having access to areas for country walks were the most important factors associated with the probability of engaging in outdoor recreational PA for both men and women. Despite the level of performance being almost equal for the sexes as two-thirds of both had performed outdoor recreational PA during the preceding year more factors, i.e., living alone, being unable to cover an unexpected cost, fear of being violated, and fear of falling, were associated with the possibilities of engaging in outdoor recreational PA among women. Also increasing age seems to affect activities among women negatively to a higher extent than men.

Conclusion

Men and women seem to have different opportunities and needs with respect to performing PA. These considerations do not seem to be sufficiently taken into account today and improvements could be made concerning e.g., health-promoting activities suggested to the elderly by healthcare personnel and spatial planning within society. Promoting outdoor recreational PA that has restorative effects on well-being needs to focus on activities which are attractive and affordable for the majority of both men and women.