Background: Interventions focusing on positive psychological well-being and motivation have been shown to help individuals improve their health. Applying these techniques simultaneously in a community-based, positive psychology and physical activity intervention could be especially beneficial to individuals at an elevated risk for developing chronic diseases.
Methods: Individuals with low levels of physical activity and metabolic syndrome were recruited for participation in this proof-of-concept study. For 8 weeks, participants attended weekly sessions focused on increasing positive emotions, setting physical activity goals, and problem-solving barriers. Sessions were rated for their ease and utility using 0-10 Likert scales. Participants were given Fitbits to track their activity throughout the intervention. Psychosocial and behavioral questionnaires and biometrics were measured pre- and post-intervention. T-tests and effect sizes (d) were calculated.
Results: Eight female, White participants enrolled and seven completed the study. The mean rating for session ease was 7.0 (±0.5)/10 and mean utility rating was 8.1 (±1.0)/10, meeting or surpassing a priori hypotheses. Positive affect (d=.88) and dispositional optimism (d=.53) scores increased, and depression scores (d=.62) improved significantly following the intervention. Physical activity increased by 2066 steps/day (d=.41) on average. Average number of vegetables eaten per day increased by 0.4 servings (d=.53), and there were significantly reduced scores on pre-post physical activity barriers (e.g., skill d=1.06, willpower d=.87).
Conclusions: This study provides support for the use of positive psychology and motivation- focused techniques to increase physical activity and vegetable consumption, as well as improve scores on mental health outcomes. The high feasibility and acceptability ratings of the sessions indicate that a next step randomized controlled trial in a larger sample is warranted.
Live Zoom Session – April 21st
Olivia R. Velasquez, BA, Anne Thorndike, MD, MPH, Sonia Kim, BA, Elyse Park, PhD, MPH, Jeffery Huffman, MD, Rachel Millstein, PhD, MHS
Rachel Millstein, PhD, MHS