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Ann Behav Med. 2007 Apr;33(2):200-6.

Older adults' preferences for exercising alone versus in groups: considering contextual congruence.

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  • 1School of Human Kinetics, University of British Columbia, Canada.



A growing body of research suggests that older exercisers prefer to exercise alone rather than in group-based settings. One limitation of these studies, however, has been that researchers have failed to take into account the age-related characteristics of groups when asking adults about their preferences for exercise settings.


The overall purpose of this study was to examine the exercise preferences of 947 adults for involvement in standard exercise classes populated by participants from various categories across the age spectrum.


The results revealed that when faced with the prospect of exercising with considerably older or younger exercisers, participants found such an exercise context to be largely unappealing. However, in accordance with the basic tenets of self-categorization theory, the results revealed that older and younger adults alike express a positive preference for exercising in standard exercise classes comprised of similarly aged participants.


The findings of this study challenge a growing call for exercise interventions for older adults to be primarily directed at the individual-level, and suggest that group-related intervention strategies may indeed be attractive to older exercisers.

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