Instructor Social Support in the Group Physical Activity Context: Older Participants’ Perspectives

Instructors in organized physical activity classes can be a source of social support through their relationships with participants, influence on participants’ interactions with each other, and design of activities. Grounded in interpretive description, the objective of this study was to examine older adults’ experiences of and their perspectives on group physical activity instructors’ supportive behaviors. Observations of 16 group physical activity classes (N = 295) and focus groups or interviews with N = 38 class participants aged ≥ 55 (n = 29 women) were conducted at four municipal recreation facilities in a Canadian city. Five themes shed light on how instructors provided social support: (a) supporting autonomous engagement, (b) developing caring connections, (c) fostering trust through expert instruction, (d) managing conflict directly and effectively, and (e) creating a climate where people want to go. Instructor training should consider older adults’ social support needs and help instructors embody behaviors that support continued physical activity participation, thereby contributing to healthy aging.
Accepted author manuscript version reprinted, by permission, from Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 2023, © Human Kinetics, Inc.
Morrison, L., McDonough, M. H., Zimmer, C., Din, C., Hewson, J., Toohey, A., Crocker, P. R., & Bennett, E. V. (2023). Instructor social support in the group physical activity context: Older participants’ perspectives. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, ahead of print, 1-11.