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Attitude Important for Healthy Lifestyle

A new study suggests having an appropriate attitude toward physical activity is important, as unconscious beliefs often influence behavior.

Specifically, unintentional physical activity may be influenced by unrecognized attitudes, says Penn State professor Dr. David Conroy.

The challenge of encouraging more activity can be met by understanding the motivation behind both deliberate exercise and inherent behaviors.

“If you aren’t in the habit of being physically active, you can run out of energy trying to force yourself to do it everyday,” said Conroy.

“But if you can make physical activity habitual, being active becomes a lot easier.”

Efforts to increase physical activity are at the forefront of public health research because the benefits of a healthy lifestyle go far beyond physical and mental well-being.

However, the majority of these efforts focus on explicit motivation — external factors that lead to a change in behavior.

Explicit motivation can include following the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendation for 150 minutes of aerobic activity throughout the week, or making plans with a friend to start a weight-loss program.

But explicit motivational processes are often unsuccessful in causing changes that people can easily maintain long-term.

Conroy, along with Shawna Doerksen, assistant professor of recreation, park and tourism management; Amanda Hyde, graduate student in kinesiology; and Nuno Ribeiro, graduate in recreation, park and tourism management, examined 200 college students for a connection between physical activity and level of unintentional activity.

“It wasn’t the overall level of activity we focused on, it was specifically the unintentional activity — those little things that you don’t even think about that help you burn those extra few calories,” said Conroy.

Their results, published in the April issue of Annals of Behavioral Medicine, show a positive correlation between individuals who have a positive attitude about physical activity and those who performed more unintentional physical activity, such as climbing stairs instead of waiting for the elevator, or walking further to the store because of parking in the first available spot rather than searching for a closer space.

The researchers measured the students’ unexpressed attitudes towards exercise with a common psychological test that uses words or pictures to trigger a person’s automatic response.

The computer-based test requires categorization of a stimulus, in this case a type of physical activity, with words that are either “good” or “bad.”

The faster a person associates a pairing as either good or bad, the more strongly they connect those two things in their memory.

Conroy and Doerksen also used questionnaires to determine the amount of physical activity the students predicted they would get during the week.

The amount varied, depending on how active students were in their social group or the outcomes they expected from physical activity.

The researchers fit each student with a pedometer to calculate the total activity he or she experienced during one week. The amount of unintentional activity is estimated by adjusting total activity scores to account for people’s intentions to be active.

“We’re trying to follow this up now by looking at a broader range of populations,” said Conroy.

There are major differences in what motivates young adults, mid-life adults or parents, and older adults who may have physical limitations, he noted.

The researchers are now exploring whether there are ways to promote or encourage physical activity without a person knowing it.

Source: Penn State University

Attitude Important for Healthy Lifestyle

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Attitude Important for Healthy Lifestyle. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/04/05/attitude-important-for-healthy-lifestyle/12584.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.