Predictors of increase in physical activity during a 6-month follow-up period among overweight and physically inactive healthy young adults

Sara Mutikainen, Tiina Föhr, Leila Karhunen, Marjukka Kolehmainen, Heikki Kainulainen, Raimo Lappalainen, Urho M. Kujala

Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness


The beneficial effects of physical activity (PA) are well known, but it remains challenging to increase PA among physically inactive and overweight young individuals. The present study aimed to examine how selected psychological and physical characteristics assessed at baseline predict the increase in total PA over a 6-month follow-up among 51 physically inactive and overweight adults (20 women, 31 men; age 26–40 years) who participated in a lifestyle counselling study without supervised PA sessions.

Baseline measurements included a questionnaire assessment of sense of coherence and psychological flexibility, heart rate monitoring-based stress/recovery from stress (stress%/recovery% during 24 hours), and body composition. PA volume was elicited through interview. Participants who increased their PA by ≥ 500 metabolic equivalent of task-minutes/week during the follow-up compared with their prebaseline PA level were regarded as able to increase PA. Logistic regression was used to analyze associations of baseline characteristics with PA increase.

During the 6-month follow-up, 41% of the participants increased their total PA by ≥ 500 metabolic equivalent of task-minutes/week. The best predictors of the increase in PA were high meaningfulness subscores of the sense of coherence questionnaire (multivariate adjusted odds ratio 1.57, 95% confidence interval 1.04–2.35) and high recovery% during a day off (odds ratio 1.15, 95% confidence interval 1.02–1.30).

A strong sense of meaningfulness and better recovery from stress predict an increase in PA among physically inactive and overweight young adults. Therefore, participants with a low sense of meaningfulness and low recovery from stress may require support from other interventions to be able to increase their PA.

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