Investigating causal models of initial and continued participation in physical activity



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The pursuit of personal fitness is of primary interest in our country today. In reality, however, the positive benefits of exercise are not achieved because people lose momentum when it comes to actual participation. Current exercise patterns are well below the U.S. Public Health Services 1990 Objectives for the Nation which relate to physical fitness and exercise (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1980). Typically, in work-site programs, approximately 30% or less of employees actually volunteer to join exercise programs. Even among those adults who do join programs, typical dropout rates are 50% after 6 months (Oldridge, 1984). Because the research to date has been pragmatic rather than theoretical in origin, there is little standardization in defining and assessing the determinants of participation in physical activity (Dishman, Sallis, & Orenstein, 1985). Until the behavioral determinants of participation are identified," intervention strategies to increase adherence are less likely to be effective due to our lack of understanding of the adherence process. This study was conducted during the first six months of operation of a Health and Fitness Center in a large corporation, and was designed to examine social, physical, and psychological factors influencing employee participation in the program. The primary objective was to develop causal models of initial and continued participation which would contribute to the understanding of variables affecting participation. A major portion of both models was based on Sonstroem's (1978) psychological model for physical activity. A second, more practical objective was to make suggestions to the Company Health and Fitness staff concerning strategies to increase adherence. Subjects used were 402 adult members of the Company Health and Fitness Program. One questionnaire, fitness files, and computer exercise logs over a six-month period were used to collect data. The questionnaire measured estimation of physical ability, attraction to physical activity, self-motivation, attitudinal commitment to physical activity, youth participation, social support, and perceived convenience of the Health and Fitness Center. Fitness files were used to obtain measures of physical ability and recent participation. Indicators of physical ability included cardiorespiratory fitness and percent body fat. Indicators of recent participation included the number of activities engaged in prior to joining the Health and Fitness Center for causal model one, and participation during the first month at the Health and Fitness Center for causal model two. Data measuring initial (month one) and continued (month six) participation were obtained from computer exercise logs at the Health and Fitness Center. A measure of initial participation was the number of dates in which each subject logged in exercise on the computer during month one. A measure of continued participation was the number of dates in which each subject logged in exercise during month six. [...]



Physical fitness--United States, Exercise--Physiological aspects