Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Women's Health-Enhancing Physical Activity and Eudaimonic Well Being

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Women's Health-Enhancing Physical Activity and Eudaimonic Well Being

Article excerpt

In this study, we explored the role of health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA; Miilunpalo, 2001) in women's eudaimonic well being (i.e., psychological flourishing at one's maximal potential Ryff 1989). We used a quantitative approach (N = 349) to explore the relationship between HEPA and eudaimonic well being. While HEPA was not related to eudaimonic well being, experiencing eudaimonia through HEPA contributed unique variance in eudaimonic well being beyond HEPA and experiencing hedonia through HEPA. As quality of activity was more important than quantity, a qualitative component (N = 10) provided further insight on if and how HEPA contributes to women's eudaimonic well being. Participants supported HEPA in fulfilling their potential through goal setting/striving, providing bonding experiences, allowing for self-reflection, and developing a physical/able body.

Key words: psychological well being, quantitative and qualitative methods


Previous research on psychological health typically focused on negative functioning (Ryff & Keyes, 1995), suggesting that people are mentally healthy if they do not suffer from negative psychological symptoms (Ryff, 1995). Psychological health, however, should not be limited to the absence of psychological maladies; instead it should include positive characteristics, such as positive affect, purpose in life, and social contribution (Cowen, 1991; Keyes, 2007; Ryan, Huta, & Deci, 2008). Thus, researchers have responded to calls to examine positive psychological health as opposed to psychological maladies (Ryan et al., 2008). To date, much research on positive psychological health has been conceptualized in terms of hedonic well being, which reflects subjective happiness and pleasure (Ryan & Deci, 2001) and is typically assessed via life satisfaction and positive and negative affect (Diener, Suh, Lucas, & Smith, 1999; Ryff, 1989).

Carol Ryff (1989, 1995) offered an alternative approach to understanding positive psychological well being through eudaimonic well being. Eudaimonia, as Aristotle wrote in his NicomachianEthics, reflects living the good life via realizing one's daimon, or true potential (Ryff, 1989). Thus, eudaimonia occurs when individuals pursue their excellences and live in accordance with their daimon (Ryan & Deci, 2001). Whereas hedonia reflects shortterm affective states and is state-like, eudaimonia appears to include both state-like (i.e., temporary and brief) and trait-like (i.e., propensity toward more stable behavior and thought patterns) tendencies (Schmutte & Ryff, 1997). While maintaining a degree of fluctuation and being responsive to life circumstances, eudaimonic well being also possesses more enduring qualities and is not as fleeting as affect (Schmutte & Ryff, 1997). Thus, eudaimonia appears to fall between states (e.g., affect) and traits (e.g., personality; Schmutte & Ryff, 1997).

Although its specific conceptualization varies (e.g., flow, meaning in life, personal expressiveness; Csikszentmihalyi, 1990; Steger, Kashdan, & Oishi, 2008; Waterman, Schwartz, & Conti, 2008), Ryff's (1989,1995) perspective of eudaimonia identified six aspects of positive psychological functioning: (a) autonomy (i.e., self-determination and independence), (b) environmental mastery (i.e., effectively managing one's surroundings, having a sense of control over external activities), (c) personal growth (i.e., feelings of continued development, being open to new experiences), (d) positive relations with others (i.e., quality relations with others, concern for others), (e) purpose in life (i.e., having goals, feeling life is meaningful), and (f) self-acceptance (i.e., positive attitude toward oneself, accepting both good and bad qualities).

The general consensus from positional (Deci & Ryan, 2008) and empirical literature (Huta & Ryan, 2010; Ryff & Keyes, 1995; Waterman et al. …

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