The purpose of this study was to assess the extent to which participation in a 12-month exercise program changed the degree of importance that older adults attached to physical activity. In addition, associations among changes in physical activity importance and health-related and psychosocial outcomes were examined.
Community-dwelling older adults (N = 179) were recruited to participate in a 12-month exercise trial examining the association between changes in physical activity and fitness with changes in brain structure and psychological health. Participants were randomly assigned to a walking condition or a flexibility, toning, and balance condition. Physical, psychological, and cognitive assessments were taken at months 0, 6, and 12.
Involvement in a 12-month exercise program increased the importance that participants placed on physical activity; this positive change was similar across exercise condition and sex. Changes in importance, however, were only associated with changes in physical health status and outcome expectations for exercise midway through the intervention. There were no significant associations at the end of the program.
Regular participation in physical activity can positively influence the perceived importance of the behavior itself. Yet, the implications of such changes on physical activity-related outcomes remain equivocal and warrant further investigation.
Wójcicki, Szabo, White, Mailey, and McAuley are with the Dept of Kinesiology and Community Health, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Kramer is with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, and the Dept of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.