January 15, 2009

Barriers to exercise are psychological

Canadian researchers say the top factors influencing the extent of physical exercise people do is their self-perceived ability and their desire to exercise.

The study of 5,167 Canadians, published in the journal BMC Public Health, showed that psychological concerns are the most important barriers to an active lifestyle.

Study leader Sai Yi Pan of the Public Health Agency of Canada examined data from a nationwide series of telephone interviews. One interview question asked participants how confident they were that they could regularly do a total of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity three or four times a week and a total of 60 minutes of light physical activity each day.

This self-efficacy score was consistently found to be related to higher physical activity across gender, age group, education level and family income level.

Confidence in one's personal ability to carry out exercise plays a central role in the direction, intensity and persistence of health-behavior change, Pan said in a statement. People who have higher physical activity self-efficacy will perceive fewer barriers to physical activity, or be less influenced by them, and will be more likely to enjoy physical activity.

Participants were asked to what extent they intended to be physically active during the next six months. The study found this intention score was another important independent correlate of physical activity.