Physical activity declines from childhood to adolescence. Affective factors may partially account for this decline. The present study investigated whether within-person changes in children’s enjoyment of physical activity are associated with the age-related decline in physical activity. Children (N = 169, 54% female, 56% Hispanic; 8–12 years old at enrollment) took part in a longitudinal study with six assessment waves across 3 years. At each wave, enjoyment of physical activity was reported, and moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) was measured with an accelerometer across seven consecutive days. MVPA and enjoyment of physical activity both declined across waves. Multilevel analyses revealed that within-person changes in enjoyment moderated the effects of age on within-person changes in MVPA. Enjoyment appeared to be a dynamic factor that buffered against the age-related decline in physical activity in youth. These findings call for health promotion interventions that encourage enjoyable physical activities.
Associations Between Physical Activity Enjoyment and Age-Related Decline in Physical Activity in Children—Results From a Longitudinal Within-Person Study
Petra Haas, Chih-Hsiang Yang, and Genevieve F. Dunton
The Intersection of Public Policy and Health Behavior Theory in the Physical Activity Arena
Genevieve F. Dunton, Michael Cousineau, and Kim D. Reynolds
Policy strategies aimed at modifying aspects of the social, physical, economic, and educational environments have been proposed as potential solutions to the growing problem of physical inactivity. To develop effective physical activity policies in these and other areas, greater understanding of how and why policies successfully impact behavior change is needed.
The current paper proposes a conceptual framework explaining how policy strategies map onto health behavior theoretical variables and processes thought to lead to physical activity change. This framework is used to make hypotheses about the potential effectiveness of different policy strategies.
Health behavior theories suggest that policies providing information may be particularly useful for individuals who are not yet considering or have only recently begun to consider becoming more physically active. Policies that provide opportunities may be less effective for individuals who do not find physical activity to be inherently fun and interesting. Policies that offer incentives or require the behavior may not be particularly useful at promoting long-term changes in physical activity.
Exploring possible connections between policy strategies and theoretical constructs can help to clarify how each approach might work and for whom it may be the most appropriate to implement.
Physical and Social Contextual Influences on Children’s Leisure-Time Physical Activity: An Ecological Momentary Assessment Study
Genevieve F. Dunton, Yue Liao, Stephen Intille, Jennifer Wolch, and Mary Ann Pentz
This study used real-time electronic surveys delivered through mobile phones, known as Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA), to determine whether level and experience of leisure-time physical activity differ across children’s physical and social contexts.
Children (N = 121; ages 9 to 13 years; 52% male, 32% Hispanic/Latino) participated in 4 days (Fri.–Mon.) of EMA during nonschool time. Electronic surveys (20 total) assessed primary activity (eg, active play/sports/exercise), physical location (eg, home, outdoors), social context (eg, friends, alone), current mood (positive and negative affect), and enjoyment. Responses were time-matched to the number of steps and minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA; measured by accelerometer) in the 30 minutes before each survey.
Mean steps and MVPA were greater outdoors than at home or at someone else’s house (all P < .05). Steps were greater with multiple categories of company (eg, friends and family together) than with family members only or alone (all P < .05). Enjoyment was greater outdoors than at home or someone else’s house (all P < .05). Negative affect was greater when alone and with family only than friends only (all P < .05).
Results describing the value of outdoor and social settings could inform context-specific interventions in this age group.
Impact of a School-Based Physical Activity Intervention on Fitness and Bone in Adolescent Females
Margaret Schneider, Genevieve F. Dunton, Stan Bassin, Dan J. Graham, Alon Eliakim, and Dan M. Cooper
Many female adolescents participate in insufficient physical activity to maintain cardiovascular fitness and promote optimal bone growth. This study evaluates the impact of a school-based intervention on fitness, activity, and bone among adolescent females.
Subjects were assigned to an intervention (n = 63) or comparison (n = 59) group, and underwent assessments of cardiovascular fitness (VO2peak), physical activity, body composition, bone mineral density (BMD), bone mineral content (BMC), and serum markers of bone turnover at baseline and at the end of each of two school semesters.
The intervention increased physical activity, VO2peak, and BMC for the thoracic spine (P values < 0.05). Bone turnover markers were not affected. In longitudinal analyses of the combined groups, improvements in cardiovascular fitness predicted increased bone formation (P < 0.01) and bone resorption (P < 0.05).
A school-based intervention for adolescent females effectively increased physical activity, cardiovascular fitness, and thoracic spine BMC.
Bidirectional Associations Between Physical Activity and Pain Among Older Adults: An Ecological Momentary Assessment Study
Tyler J. Davis, Derek J. Hevel, Genevieve F. Dunton, and Jaclyn P. Maher
This paper examines the within-day, bidirectional associations between physical activity and self-reported pain among older adults. Older adults (N = 104; range: 60–98 years) participated in a 10-day Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) study. Participants received six EMA prompts/day with a single item assessing pain. Participants wore an activPAL monitor measuring step counts. At the within-person level, on occasions when participants took more steps than usual in the 30 min before the EMA prompt, they were more likely to experience pain at the prompt (
Within-Day Time-Varying Associations Between Behavioral Cognitions and Physical Activity in Adults
Jaclyn P. Maher, Eldin Dzubur, Jimi Huh, Stephen Intille, and Genevieve F. Dunton
This study used time-varying effect modeling to examine time-of-day differences in how behavioral cognitions predict subsequent physical activity (PA). Adults (N = 116) participated in three 4-day “bursts” of ecological momentary assessment (EMA). Participants were prompted with eight EMA questionnaires per day assessing behavioral cognitions (i.e., intentions, self-efficacy, outcome expectations) and wore an accelerometer during waking hours. Subsequent PA was operationalized as accelerometer-derived minutes of moderate- or vigorousintensity PA in the 2 hr following the EMA prompt. On weekdays, intentions positively predicted subsequent PA in the morning (9:25 a.m.–11:45 a.m.) and in the evening (8:15 p.m.–10:00 p.m.). Self-efficacy positively predicted subsequent PA on weekday evenings (7:35 p.m.–10:00 p.m.). Outcome expectations were unrelated to subsequent PA on weekdays. On weekend days, behavior cognitions and subsequent PA were unrelated regardless of time of day. This study identifies windows of opportunity and vulnerability for motivation-based PA interventions aiming to deliver intervention content within the context of adults’ daily lives.
Associations of Mothers’ and Children’s Stress With Children’s Device-Measured Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior Trajectories Across 3 Years
Genevieve F. Dunton, Daniel Chu, Christine H. Naya, Britni R. Belcher, and Tyler B. Mason
Background: Psychological stress has adverse effects on health-related behaviors, yet longitudinal research is lacking. Research examined how children’s and mothers’ perceived stress are associated with children’s physical activity and sedentary behavior trajectories across 3 years. Methods: Mothers and their children (N = 186 dyads; 8–12 y at baseline, 57% Hispanic) completed 6 assessments across 3 years. Children and mothers self-reported perceived stress using the Stress in Children Scale and Perceived Stress Scale, respectively. Children’s moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and sedentary behavior were assessed using accelerometers. Mixed models examined interactions of mothers’ and children’s perceived stress by time elapsed in the study on children’s MVPA and sedentary behavior. Results: The perceived stress × time elapsed interactions were significant for children’s MVPA and sedentary behavior (Ps < .05). Higher average perceived stress in mothers was associated with greater decreases in children’s MVPA and increases in children’s sedentary behavior. The child stress × time elapsed interactions was significant for children’s MVPA (P < .05) but not sedentary behavior. Higher average perceived stress in children was associated with smaller decreases in children’s MVPA. Conclusion: Interventions to promote physical activity and reduce screen time in children should mitigate the effects of psychological stress, especially among mothers, on these behaviors.
Longitudinal Associations Between Neighborhood Park and Open Space Access and Children’s Accelerometer-Assessed Measured Physical Activity: The Evidence From the MATCH Study
Li Yi, Tyler B. Mason, Chih-Hsiang Yang, Daniel Chu, and Genevieve F. Dunton
Background: Cross-sectional studies have shown positive associations between neighborhood park access and children’s physical activity (PA); however, research that examines the relationship longitudinally is lacking. This study investigates how neighborhood park access affects the longitudinal trajectory of PA in 192 children across 3 years. Methods: Accelerometer-assessed PA data of children (N = 202) were collected across 6 semi-annual waves (7 d each) between 2014 and 2018. Geographical information systems was used to measure neighborhood park access (ie, coverage, density, and proximity) at baseline. Mixed-effects models examined the associations of park access with children’s baseline and trajectory of moderate to vigorous PA (MVPA) minutes across 3 years and whether the associations differed by sex or weekends versus weekdays. Results: Higher neighborhood park density, coverage, and proximity were positively associated with children’s baseline MVPA minutes per day. Longitudinally, higher park coverage was associated with smaller decreases in children’s MVPA minutes per day, but only during weekends. Park density and proximity were not associated with change in MVPA minutes per day. The above associations did not differ by sex. Conclusions: Having access to more neighborhood parklands protected against age-related declines in children’s PA. These findings suggest that neighborhood park coverage should be considered by urban planners when evaluating the health impacts of their policies.
Examining Whether Physical Activity Location Choices Were Associated With Weekly Physical Activity Maintenance Across 13 Months of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Emerging Adults
Li Yi, Shirlene D. Wang, Daniel Chu, Aditya Ponnada, Stephen S. Intille, and Genevieve F. Dunton
Background: Recent studies have shown potentially detrimental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on physical activity (PA) in emerging adults (ages 18–29 y). However, studies that examined the effects of COVID-19 on PA location choices and maintenance for this age group remain limited. The current study investigated changes in PA location choices across 13 months during the pandemic and their associations with PA maintenance in this population. Methods: Emerging adults (N = 197) living in the United States completed weekly survey on personal smartphones (May 2020–June 2021) regarding PA location choices and maintenance. Mixed-effects models examined the main effects of PA location choice and its interaction with weeks into the pandemic on participants’ PA maintenance. Results: On a given week, participants performing PA on roads/sidewalks or at parks/open spaces were 1½ and 2 times as likely to maintain PA levels, respectively. Moreover, after September 2021, weeks when individuals performed PA on roads/sidewalks had a protective effect on PA maintenance. Conclusions: Performing PA on roads/sidewalks and at parks/open spaces was associated with PA maintenance during the COVID-19 pandemic. PA promotion and intervention efforts for emerging adults during large-scale disruptions to daily life should focus on providing programmed activities in open spaces to maintain their PA levels.
Physical Activity and Variation in Momentary Behavioral Cognitions: An Ecological Momentary Assessment Study
Trevor A. Pickering, Jimi Huh, Stephen Intille, Yue Liao, Mary Ann Pentz, and Genevieve F. Dunton
Decisions to perform moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) involve behavioral cognitive processes that may differ within individuals depending on the situation.
Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) was used to examine the relationships of momentary behavioral cognitions (ie, self-efficacy, outcome expectancy, intentions) with MVPA (measured by accelerometer). A sample of 116 adults (mean age, 40.3 years; 72.4% female) provided real-time EMA responses via mobile phones across 4 days. Multilevel models were used to test whether momentary behavioral cognitions differed across contexts and were associated with subsequent MVPA. Mixed-effects location scale models were used to examine whether subject-level means and within-subjects variances in behavioral cognitions were associated with average daily MVPA.
Momentary behavioral cognitions differed across contexts for self-efficacy (P = .007) but not for outcome expectancy (P = .53) or intentions (P = .16). Momentary self-efficacy, intentions, and their interaction predicted MVPA within the subsequent 2 hours (Ps < .01). Average daily MVPA was positively associated with within-subjects variance in momentary self-efficacy and intentions for physical activity (Ps < .05).
Although momentary behavioral cognitions are related to subsequent MVPA, adults with higher average MVPA have more variation in physical activity self-efficacy and intentions. Performing MVPA may depend more on how much behavioral cognitions vary across the day than whether they are generally high or low.