To increase physical activity, focus on how, not why

Feb 17, 2011

Most 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.

"The 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."

Behavior 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.

" should ask patients about their 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."

The 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 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.

"The thought of 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."

Previously, 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 socioeconomic status.

The study, "Interventions to increase physical activity among healthy adults: Meta-analysis of outcomes," is featured in this month's issue of the . Conn's research is funded by a more than $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Explore further: A new approach to cut death toll of young people in road accidents

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Making patients move requires the right exercise advice

Jul 23, 2008

It is common knowledge that regular exercise supports physical and mental well-being. Despite this and recommendations from health care providers, the majority of patients with chronic illnesses remain inactive. In a new ...

Walk your way to a healthier lifestyle

Jun 18, 2008

Need a boost to get off the couch? A new study shows that a variety of interventions designed to promote walking can effectively motivate individuals to initiate walking behaviors. The results of the review are published ...

The key to a healthy lifestyle is in the mind

Jan 16, 2009

The main factors influencing the amount of physical exercise people carry out are their self-perceived ability and the extent of their desire to exercise. A study of 5167 Canadians, reported in the open access journal BMC Pu ...

Recommended for you

Sensors may keep hospitalized patients from falling

18 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—To keep hospitalized patients safer, University of Arizona researchers are working on new technology that involves a small, wearable sensor that measures a patient's activity, heart rate, ...

Rising role seen for health education specialists

20 hours ago

(HealthDay)—A health education specialist can help family practices implement quality improvement projects with limited additional financial resources, according to an article published in the March/April ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.