Older Ghanaian adults’ perceptions of physical activity: an exploratory, mixed methods study
Balis, Laura E.
Harden, Samantha M.
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Background Ghana is experiencing an epidemiological shift in public health issues toward non-communicable diseases that are underpinned by modifiable health behaviors. Physical activity rates have decreased, especially among older adults, coinciding with urbanization and an increase in sedentary work. Community-based physical activity programs are a recommended method of increasing physical activity levels; however, none currently exist in Ghana. The aim of this exploratory study was to determine older Ghanaian adults’ perceptions of physical activity and asses fit and feasibility of adapting and delivering a physical activity program for this population. Methods hrough a concurrent exploratory mixed-methods design, data were gathered from Ghanaian older adults (N = 123) during focus groups (N = 10) conducted at one diabetes clinic and nine churches across three urban areas. Qualitative data were collected using a semi-structured script that prompted for responses related to physical activity perceptions and the fit and feasibility of physical activity program characteristics. Quantitative data were collected through a questionnaire assessing participant demographics, physical activity levels, and health rating as well as physical activity knowledge and self-efficacy. Results Findings indicate that older adults in Ghana have a need for and an interest in physical activity promotion. Participants had positive perceptions of being physically active, but were unaware of physical activity guidelines and how to meet them. Peer influence and health care providers’ recommendations were motivating factors for physical activity participation. As for desired physical activity program characteristics, participants expressed interest in group-based activities and becoming peer leaders and preference for a church-based program. Conclusions The results suggest that a group-based physical activity program encouraged by health care providers and delivered at churches through a train-the-trainer model would be well received by aging adults from three urban areas of Ghana. In addition, education on physical activity types is needed, along with better dissemination and education on Ministry of Health physical activity guidelines. This exploratory work highlights preliminary support for a group- and community-based physical activity program for the aging population in Ghana. Beginning with the end in mind, these program characteristics should be considered when adopting, adapting, and implementing an intervention with this population.