Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Nancy Fishwick

Second Committee Member

Elizabeth H. Bicknell

Third Committee Member

Catherine Berardelli


By the year 2030, approximately one in five Americans is expected to be over the age of 65. As Americans age, they decrease their leisure time physical activity, which increases the risk for premature morbidity and mortality. The loss of function from chronic illnesses may require some elders to be placed in nursing homes for assistance in medical, physical or functional care. Planned exercise activities for nursing home residents have been associated with positive physical and functional outcomes for those who participate. However, exercise can have many meanings which change as one's situation in life changes, and participation in exercise may be based on the perception of its meaning in one's life. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the lived experience of exercise from the viewpoint of elderly persons living in nursing homes. In-depth interviews were conducted with six nursing home residents. Data analysis revealed themes of "They come and get me" and "Moving my body." "They come and get me" described the ways in which the exercise was shaped by the participants' interactions with staff, which included a reciprocal relationship during exercise, and by health care policy. "Moving my body" portrayed the spontaneity of exercise and the way exercise was used to overcome physical handicaps. The theme displayed the equilibrium participants maintained between physical limitations and abilities. Moving one's body provided participants with an impression of self-competence and a means to assist staff during activities. Participants adopted helping roles during activities, which were perceived as equal but different within the nursing home culture. The findings may provide insight to nursing educators, nursing home caregivers and creators of healthcare policy