Behavioral Therapy Increases Exercise in Adults

It is known that regular physical exercise helps in reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression and also some types of cancers. However, many adults do not get adequate exercise. There have been several attempts made by various researchers to induce increased physical activity in adults. This study was conducted to look at previous research that looked at the effects of these interventions to promote exercise in adults. The results showed that when targeting the behavior of the participants, these attempts could improve the attitude towards exercise to a moderate degree.

Exercise is important for prevention of several diseases, as well as for general well being. Very specifically, it is beneficial for people prone to gaining excess weight, cardiac problems, arthritis and osteoporosis. However, since many adults do not exercise regularly, various motivational measures needed to be adopted. There is a large body of studies that tests these interventions for improving attitude towards exercise. Some have been very successful, while others have shown modest success. The ideal intervention that can cause an attitudinal shift towards physical exercise in the general public is still elusive. This study is a compilation of previous studies on measures promoting exercise and their effectiveness. An attempt was made to find the most successful measure that will motivate people to exercise regularly. It was also noted whether these measures were successful only because of the characteristics of the study alone – for example methods used and nature of the study population.

The research involved searching for journal articles and reviews that dealt with measures to improve exercise behavior among adults. An expert librarian searched through the journal databases on the Internet and looked at research registers for articles. Journal articles spanning the years 1960 to 2007 were reviewed. In the present study, the researchers found a total of 54,642 articles that could be included for analysis. The data was extracted, coded and analyzed statistically.

Results/Key findings
* The results revealed that when the participants’ behavior was targeted, the success in attitudinal shift towards increasing physical exercise was higher. These behavioral therapies included working at the knowledge, beliefs and attitudes of the participants.
* It was found that when these measures were more effective when delivered through individual communication, as opposed to media messages. Establishing a role model in the trainer or educator was also found to be more effective.
* The results also revealed that the elderly and those who are chronically diseased respond best to the call for increasing an exercise schedule.

Next steps/Shortcomings
The authors agreed that because of inclusion of a large number of studies, the quality of the study designs ranged from excellent to poorly planned. However, no such discrimination was made while analyzing the data. It is possible, therefore, that studies with poor planning or design might have skewed the results. The authors also mention that many important studies which showed that these measures have no value in the attitudinal shift may not have found a place in the publications at all. The authors suggest that further studies could establish the actual role of behavioral therapy and the type that is most effective.

This large review of previous studies shows that behavioral therapy may help bring about a change in the attitude of individuals towards exercising. This study adds to the growing body of literature in this field and suggests that in terms of public health measures, behavioral therapy should gain more importance. This study also shows that messages on the mass media may not always be effective. One to one communication regarding the importance and benefits of physical exercise is more effective. Other behavioral approaches like rewards, monitoring activity by self, target setting and setting up of role models may help people exercise more and attain better mental and physical well being.

For More Information:
Interventions to Increase Physical Activity among Healthy Adults: Meta-analysis of Outcomes
Publication Journal: American Journal of Public Health, February 2011
By Vicki S Conn, PhD; Adam R Hafdahl, PhD; University of Missouri School of Nursing, Columbia and ARCH Statistical Consulting, Lawrence

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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