A qualitative study of older adults' perspectives on initiating exercise and mindfulness practice

Diana C. Parra, Julie Loebach Wetherell, Alexandria Van Zandt, Ross C. Brownson, Janardan Abhishek, Eric J. Lenze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Mindfulness practice and exercise are ways by which older adults can improve and maintain their physical, emotional and cognitive health. Methods: This single-site qualitative study gathered insights of older adults' perceptions about initiating and maintaining mindfulness and exercise practices. We carried out focus groups with 41 adults aged 65-85 who had recently initiated Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), structured exercise, or their combination as part of participation in a clinical trial. We used a semi-structured interview to ask them open-ended questions regarding the benefits, barriers and facilitators of participating in mindfulness and/or exercise interventions. The interview also included questions regarding translation of these practices into community settings as well as the long-Term maintenance potential of these practices. Results: Older adults indicated that the mindfulness training increased their awareness and self-reflection and fostered a more self-Accepting attitude. Furthermore, they improved their self-care habits and reported having better familial and social relationships. The main barrier for both the exercise and Mindfulness group was time management. The social benefits and sense of community were some of the primary motivators for older adults in the exercise and/or MBSR interventions. However, the research on how to motivate older adults to initiate healthy behavioral changes also needs to be answered. The benefits of exercise and MBSR are a motivation in and of themselves, as indicated by some of the participants. Conclusions: This study indicates that mindfulness training and exercise can serve as tools to cultivate important health lifestyle qualities among older adults, who are in the midst of mental, social, emotional and physical change. If it were not for the purpose of the research or the incentives provided by the research team, these older adults may have never started the healthy behavioral changes. From the responses, this may indicate that older adults may need more incentives to begin and maintain behavioral changes other than for their own health benefit.

Original languageEnglish
Article number354
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 23 2019


  • Exercise
  • Mindfulness
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction
  • Older adults
  • Qualitative study

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