Background: While community-wide interventions to promote physical activity have been encouraged in older adults, evidence of their effectiveness remains limited. We conducted a qualitative study among older adults participating in regular group exercise to understand their perceptions of the physical, mental, and social changes they underwent as a result of the physical activity. Methods: We conducted a qualitative study with purposeful sampling to explore the experiences of older adults who participated in regular group exercise as part of a community-wide physical activity intervention. Four focus group interviews were conducted between April and June of 2016 at community halls in Fujisawa City. The participants in the focus group interviews were 26 older adults with a mean age of 74.69 years (range: 66-86). The interviews were analysed using the constant comparative method in the grounded theory approach. We used qualitative research software NVivo10® to track the coding and manage the data. Results: The finding 'regular group exercise contributes to balanced health in older adults' emerged as an overarching theme with seven categories (regular group exercise, functional health, active mind, enjoyment, social connectedness, mutual support, and expanding communities). Although the participants perceived that they were aging physically and cognitively, the regular group exercise helped them to improve or maintain their functional health and enjoy their lives. They felt socially connected and experienced a sense of security in the community through caring for others and supporting each other. As the older adults began to seek value beyond individuals, they gradually expanded their communities beyond geographical and generational boundaries. Conclusions: The participants achieved balanced health in the physical, mental, and social domains through regular group exercise as part of a community-wide physical activity intervention and contributed to expanding communities through social connectedness and mutual support. Health promotion through physical activity is being increasingly emphasized. The study results can help to develop effective physical activity programs for older adults in the community.
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