Exercising with people of their own age helps older adults stick with a group exercise programme, according to a new study published in the journal Health Psychology.
The findings also suggest that working out with peers of the same gender does not seem to make a difference -- it's the age that counts.
"This study points to the importance of age-targeting, but perhaps not gender-targeting, when developing these programmes," said lead author Mark Beauchamp, Professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada.
"This is significant, as it could free facilitators from the cost of providing separate classes for each gender unnecessarily," the researchers said.
Elderly who worked out with people of their own age attended an average of 9.5 more classes than counterparts in the mixed-age group, the researchers found.
For the study, researchers recruited 627 adults, averaging 72 years in age, for 12-week exercise classes.
To strengthen participant's commitment, researchers also gave custom T-shirts to participants that identified them as members of a group and were given opportunities to socialise over coffee following class.
"All of this together points to the power of social connections," Beauchamp said.
"If you set the environment up so participants feel a sense of connection or belonging with these other people, then they're more likely to stick with it," Beauchamp added.
According to the researchers, older adults worldwide are less active than they should be and that can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and arthritis.
The researchers noted that social strategies would be easy to employ in a variety of physical activity settings such as community centres, fitness clubs and retirement communities.