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Psychological well-being associated with a physical activity programme for persons over 60 years old

Marcin Krawczynski
University of Physical Education, Gdansk, Poland
Henryk Olszewski
University of Gdansk, Poland

This study investigated the effects of various intervention programmes designed to improve physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being for people over 60 years of age.  Participants were 59 women and 16 men from a general population sample.  They were all relatively healthy in terms of physical and psychological health and the average age was approximately 65 years.  
The programme lasted four months and during this time each participant was involved in activities for 7 hours per week, which stimulated them both mentally and physically.  The programme included rhythm and dance exercises, general stretching exercises, recreational outdoor activities (e.g. walks, games), and relaxation exercises.  Participants were also involved in creativity enhancement seminars, seminars on psychology and philosophy of life, and sessions encouraging social interaction and communication skills.  The researchers measured depression, hypochondria, and feelings of the purpose of life prior to the start of the programme, immediately after its completion, and at a follow-up period 6 months later.

The results indicated that participants experienced significantly positive changes in all three psychological assessments as a result of the intervention programme, reporting lowered rates of depression and hypochondria, and increased feelings of purpose in life.  Importantly, these positive effects were maintained 6 months after participants completed the four month intervention-prevention programme suggesting that the programme was directly responsible for the positive changes.

The combination of physical, mental, and spiritual activities may have played an important role in enhancing overall well-being, however one must also take into consideration that the programme may also have helped people to build their social support networks.  Social interaction with peers may also have played an important role and the positive changes may have remained after 6 months because people kept in touch with one another.  Although the researchers acknowledge various limitations to the study, the findings highlight how such intervention programmes for the elderly may help to improve well-being and quality of life.


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