To Increase Physical Activity, Focus on How, Not Why
people know that exercise is important to maintain and improve health;
however, sedentary lifestyles and obesity rates are at all-time highs
and have become major national issues. In a new study, University of
Missouri researchers found that healthy adults who received
interventions focused on behavior-changing strategies significantly
increased their physical activity levels. Conversely, interventions
based on cognitive approaches, which try to change knowledge and
attitudes, did not improve physical activity.
focus needs to shift from increasing knowledge about the benefits of
exercise to discussing strategies to change behaviors and increase
activity levels," said Vicki Conn, associate dean for research and
Potter-Brinton professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing. "The
common approach is to try and change people's attitudes or beliefs
about exercise and why it's important, but that information isn't
motivating. We can't 'think' ourselves into being more active."
strategies include feedback, goal setting, self-monitoring, exercise
prescription and stimulus or cues. Self-monitoring, any method where
participants record and track their activity over time, appears to
significantly increase awareness and provide motivation for
improvement, Conn said.
care providers should ask patients about their exercise habits and help
them set specific, manageable goals," Conn said. "Ask them to try
different strategies, such as tracking their progress, scheduling
exercise on their phones or calendars, or placing their pedometers by
their clothes. Discuss rewards for accomplishing goals."
study, featured in the American Journal of Public Health, incorporated
data from 358 reports and 99,011 participants. The researchers
identified behavioral strategies were most effective in increasing
physical activity among healthy adults. Successful interventions were
delivered face-to-face instead of mediated (i.e. via telephone, mail,
etc.) and targeted individuals instead of communities.
thought of exercise may be overwhelming, but slowly increasing activity
by just 10 minutes a day adds up weekly and is enough to provide health
benefits," Conn said. "Even small increases in physical activity will
enhance protection against chronic illnesses, including heart disease
and diabetes. Preventing or delaying chronic disease will reduce
complications, health care costs and overall burden."
Conn completed a meta-analysis of interventions for chronically ill
patients and found similar results. Conn found that interventions were
similarly effective regardless of gender, age, ethnicity and
study is featured in the American Journal of Public Health. Conn's
research is funded by a more than $1 million grant from the National
Institutes of Health.
For more information on the University of Missouri-Columbia, www.missouri.edu.