Strategies Used to Increase Lifestyle Physical Activity in a Pedometer-Based Intervention

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to determine the self-selected strategies participants used to increase physical activity during an 8-week, pedometer-based lifestyle intervention. Participants were 34 employees of a small northeastern private college, with a mean age of 44.3 (± 9.3) years. The intervention consisted of a counseling session (goal setting, strategy selection), daily pedometer usage, and self-monitoring. Measures included height, weight, and pedometer-assessed ambulatory activity. Participants were placed in body mass index (BMI) and weekly physical activity improvement fertiles. BMI categories included normal weight (BMI 18.6-24.9), overweight (BMI 25-29.9), and obese (BMI ≥30). Weekly physical activity improvement categories included small/no improvement (<1%/wk), moderate improvement (1-5%/wk), and large improvement (>5%/wk). Data analysis consisted of descriptive and non-parametric inferential statistics (χ^sup 2^). Participants in this study used 11 primary strategies on a regular basis to increase daily physical activity. The percentage of participants who used these strategies was as follows: walked to a meeting or work-related errand (64.7%), after work (50.0%), before work (35.3%), at lunch (47.1%), on the weekend (32.4%), while traveling (32.4%), with the dog (32.4%), or to a destination (work/store) (29.4%). Additionally, participants parked farther away (50%), used the stairs rather than an elevator (23.5%), and performed other cardiovascular activity (52.9%). Differences among BMI groups were found for the parking further strategy (p < 0.05), with obese participants using this strategy significantly more than overweight participants. No significant differences were found among weekly physical activity improvement groups. This study indicates that participants in a pedometer-based lifestyle physical activity intervention used a variety of strategies to increase daily physical activity. J Allied Health. 2004; 33:278-281.

THERE HAS BEEN AN increased emphasis on the development of "lifestyle" interventions to increase physical activity.1 Lifestyle physical activity interventions attempt to address public health recommendations that call for the accumulation of at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week while taking into account individual circumstances.2 Lifestyle physical activity interventions have been shown to be as effective as structured exercise programs in increasing physical activity and improving health.1'5'4

The focus of lifestyle physical activity is on self-selected activities (occupational, household, leisure, and formal exercise) that can be incorporated throughout the day, in a variety of settings.1 Additional emphasis has been placed on the accumulation of short bouts of physical activity throughout the day, whether intentional or incidental, because studies have indicated increased adherence and improved health.1,5

Lifestyle physical activity interventions have included various combinations of behavioral change techniques to increase physical activity.3'6'8 Behavioral change techniques commonly used include counseling, goal setting, self-monitoring, feedback, and prompting. Pedometers also have been used in intervention studies, not only to measure physical activity in the form of daily step counts, but to also serve as a cue to action, a feedback device, and a vital element of the self-monitoring process when recording daily steps taken.3'6 In a more recent study, participants set selfdetermined goals and strategies to increase physical activity, wore a pedometer on a daily basis, and recorded their activities and total daily steps on a calendar.6 In another study, goals were predetermined for the participants who wore a pedometer on a daily basis and were instructed to increase their physical activity in any manner that would fit their lifestyle.3

Selection of strategies to increase physical activity has been included in physical activity interventions, as has recording of total amounts of physical activity, either in minutes or step counts. …