Older Canadian Men's Perceptions and Experiences of Physical Activity

Wednesday, 13 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 42 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Laura HURD CLARKE, School of Kinesiology, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Joseph KUGLER, School of Kinesiology, The University of British Columbia, Canada
Philip YAN, School of Kinesiology, The University of British Columbia, Canada
In this paper, we consider older Canadian men’s perceptions and experiences of physical activity. We draw on data from in-depth interviews with 22 men, aged 67-90 (average age of 76), who were diverse in terms of their incomes and levels of education. The men were largely homogeneous with respect to their marital statuses and sexual orientation as the majority were married and heterosexual. The men were asked about the types of physical activity they engaged in, their reasons for doing so, and how and why their levels of physical activity had changed or remained the same over time.

Our analysis of the data revealed three key meanings that the men attributed to physical activity: a) physical activity as health promotion; b) physical activity as a means of fighting aging and ageism; and c) physical activity as embodied masculinity. The majority of the men argued that they had a moral responsibility to engage in physical activity so as to promote their health and maintain their bodies. The men further suggested that physical activity was an important means of fighting the bodily realities of aging, including eventual future losses related to their health, independence, and functional abilities. In this way, the men asserted that physical activity enabled them to resist ageist stereotypes and the societal devaluation of older bodies. Finally, the men contended that physical activity enabled them to demonstrate their masculinity as they enacted idealized male characteristics such as strength, dominance, and sporting prowess. As such, the men expressed concern about how declines in their health might impact their abilities to be physically active in the future with concomitant threats to their sense of identity, well-being, and social currency.

We discuss our findings in relation to the extant theorizing and research pertaining to ageism, masculinity, and age relations.