Effective Ways to Get Adults to Exercise

This review was conducted to summarize the effects of reinforcement methods designed to increase physical activities among healthy adults. The researchers investigated whether certain steps were effective in increasing physical activity among healthy adults, with emphasis on the behavioral strategies over cognitive ones. Statistical methods were used to look at the effect of interventions in treatment groups versus control groups. The study found that the most effective interventions were behavioral rather than cognitive interventions. Face-to-face delivery worked better than mediated interventions; and targeting individuals, rather than communities, was also more effective.

Adequate physical activity among healthy adults improves one’s quality of life.  There are many proven benefits, including reduction in cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, osteoporosis, depression, and excess weight. Still, healthy adults tend to get an insufficient amount of exercise. This review looked at several primary studies and prior reviews on this subject; and a large number of literature studies were researched, as well. Previously, several studies worked on health outcomes from interventions of physical activity, but few of these examined the behavior outcome of physical activity. The authors’ objective was to carry out a comparative study of different intervening methods and how those methods encouraged a positive increase in physical activity among participants. The review looked at what overall effect the designed intervening steps imposed on physical activity behavior afterwards. Another focus was to understand whether the methods and characteristics of intervening techniques influence physical activity behavior.

The methodologies were based on selecting and then doing a comprehensive review of literature of primary studies, reviews and unpublished results. A framework was developed to note all the study results and the approaches used in those works as methods to intervene physical activity among healthy adults. Seventy-four intervention characteristics were coded, which included knowledge of social contexts, behavioral targets and so on. The mode of delivery of the intervention methods were also noted. Comparisons of the results were done with similar studies that were done on ill adults.

Key findings
* The interventions were grouped into approaches that were behavioral (goal setting, contracting, self-monitoring, cues and rewards) or cognitive (beliefs, decision-making, health education, providing information).
* The intervening methods targeted toward individuals were more effective than the standardized methods used for the groups.
* The behavioral methodologies for reinforcement of physical activity, such as setting goals and giving rewards, were found to be superior to other methods, such as counseling and education.
* The behavioral reinforcement methods for increasing physical activity were received better in face-to-face meetings than through media methods, such as phone calls.

Next steps/shortcomings
The studies in this review were obtained from many databases, journals, and from information available from study reports. These studies varied widely in their approach of research. Studies with low or negative effects were inaccessible. Also, the primary studies which were referred to here, had their own preferences; so a bias in the results could not be avoided. Behavioral methods of interventions were found to be more successful in inducing more physical activity among the subjects. Further studies specifically addressing that would be useful.

The study found that reinforcement of intervening methods had a positive impact on the increase in level of physical activity. Several types of intervening methods have shown a positive increase in physical activity among healthy adults. The intervening methods were categorized into categories such as behavioral, meaning self-monitoring, external influences to increase physical activity, rewards, and goal-setting; and cognitive, like counseling and health seminars. Interventions using behavioral patterns were shown to play a more positive role towards increasing physical activity among healthy adults than were the cognitive methods. It was observed that interventions, when delivered face-to-face to an individual, had more of an impact than interventions which were delivered through mass media or the phone.

For More Information:
Interventions to Increase Physical Activity among Healthy Adults: A Review
Publication Journal: American Journal of Public Health, April 2011
By Vicki S. Conn, PhD, RN; Adam R. Hafdahi, PhD; University of Missouri School of Nursing, Columbia, Missouri, and ARCH Statistical Consulting, Lawrence, Kansas

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


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