Physical inactivity is one of the largest contributors to non-communicable disease and disability in older adults. Identity is one of several concepts applied to explain physical activity motivation and adherence in older adults. Identity has been shown to correlate positively with physical activity, but this relationship has yet to be studied in non-White older adult groups. This three-part, multi-method study explores the role of identity in physical activity engagement among community dwelling Black and African American adults, age 60 and over. Two quantitative correlational studies and one qualitative case study examine the role of Physical Activity Identity (PAI) in physical activity engagement and function. Correlational studies use the Modified Exercise Identity Scale to compare strength of PAI with volume of physical activity, as well as performance on three physical function tests: gait speed, grip strength, and Five Times Sit to Stand. A qualitative case study uses interview and journal data to explore how Black and African American older adults (BOAs) conceptualize physical activity and exercise and orient their identities in relation to those concepts. Findings from these studies demonstrate that PAI plays a role in the physical activity engagement, maintenance, and performance of BOAs. This is the first study to examine the role of PAI on functional performance. This study also contributes a case for the inclusion of identity in the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health model and proposes new dimensions for exploration in models of physical activity initiation, behavior, and maintenance in older adults.
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