Despite the positive health benefits of exercise, many individuals do not engage in physical activity. A new study published in the Journal of Health Psychology demonstrated that satisfaction and mindfulness are important factors in physical activity, and help establish exercise regimens.
Physical activity is a major contributor to a healthy lifestyle, accommodating a higher quality of life, satisfaction with life, and overall happiness. Despite the positive health benefits of exercise, many individuals do not engage in physical activity, or cease to continue with exercising after a short duration. Psychological research on this problem focuses on interventions that facilitate the initiation of physical activity rather than its maintenance.
Satisfaction justifies the effort exerted in initiating a new behavior and leads to positive emotions associated with the behavior. However, the benefit experienced from a new behaviour decreases over time; this gradual decrease in satisfaction may account for the failure to sustain weight loss in many individuals. Mindfulness, or awareness of the present moment, has been used to predict well-being, as it is higher among exercisers who are in the maintenance phase. Mindfulness may intensify the recognition and experience of satisfaction with physical activity such that individuals continue to experience positive emotions during exercise. However, once physical activity becomes a habit, satisfaction and mindfulness may cease to play an important role.
In a new study published in the Journal of Health Psychology, researchers aimed to explore the relationship between satisfaction, mindfulness and physical activity in two groups: those who are initiating physical activity, and those who have been maintaining an exercise regimen. They found that mindfulness during physical activity was related to increased physical activity, and this relationship was mediated by how satisfied one feels with what they are doing. Additionally, the association of mindfulness with physical activity was only significant when exercise habits were weak, indicating that mindfulness does not play an important role in maintaining physical activity once an individual follows an exercise regimen.
Overall, the results from this study indicate that mindfulness and satisfaction help establish exercise regimens. Limitations of the study include that data was self-reported and collected at only one time point, and that there was a large amount of missing data. Despite this, the results suggest that being mindful and experiencing positive emotions during physical activity can help establish and sustain exercise regimens. This finding may assist with the design of new types of behavioural interventions to enhance health-promoting behaviours.
Written By: Neeti Vashi, BSc