How Do Positive Psychological Constructs Affect Physical Activity Engagement Among Individuals at High Risk for Chronic Health Conditions? A Qualitative Study

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background: Positive psychological constructs (eg, optimism, positive affect) may help people engage in physical activity, though the details of these relationships and their directionality have not been studied in depth in people with cardiovascular risk factors. The objectives of this study were to use qualitative research to explore the relationships of positive psychological constructs with physical activity among people with metabolic syndrome. Methods: Participants with metabolic syndrome and low physical activity from an academic medical center completed semistructured phone interviews about associations between physical activity and positive psychological constructs, and perceptions about benefits, motivation, and barriers to physical activity. Results: The participants (n = 21) were predominantly older (mean age = 63 y) white (95.2%) women (61.9%). Engaging in physical activity was commonly associated with enjoyment, energy, relaxation, accomplishment, and determination. Experiencing positive psychological constructs like enjoyment, energy, connectedness, optimism, and determination also helped them engage in physical activity. Perceived benefits, facilitators, and barriers of physical activity engagement were noted. Conclusions: The participants at high risk for chronic diseases described many specific positive psychological constructs that both promote and result from physical activity. Testing ways to increase positive psychological constructs may be a novel way to help people at high risk of chronic diseases become more active.

Millstein, Huffman, Freedman, Scheu, Kim, and Barclay are with the Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA. Millstein and Huffman are also with the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA. Thorndike and Park are with the Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA. Amonoo is with the Department of Psychiatry, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA, USA; and the Department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA, USA.

Millstein (ramillstein@mgh.harvard.edu) is corresponding author.

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