The determinants of physical activity and sedentary behaviour in inner-regional Australia

Olson, Jenny Louise (2019) The determinants of physical activity and sedentary behaviour in inner-regional Australia. [Thesis (PhD/Research)]

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Background: Residents of inner-regional Australia suffer poorer health than people living in Australia’s major cities and in more remote regions of Australia. Physical activity has numerous health benefits and offers an excellent preventive health strategy. Sedentary behaviour (i.e., too much sitting) is detrimental for health, particularly among those who perform low levels of physical activity. A high proportion of people living in inner-regional Australia are insufficiently active (84%), and on average, people within this population are sedentary for one third of all waking hours. To devise effective strategies to improve the health of this population by encouraging more people to lead active lifestyles, we first need to understand why so many people within inner-regional Australia are inactive and sedentary. Therefore, the overall aim of this research was to understand why high proportions of people living in inner-regional Australia lead inactive lifestyles.

Methods: A mixed-methods approach was undertaken involving two qualitative and one quantitative study. The first two studies were conducted in inner-regional southern Queensland, with qualitative methodology in the form of semi-structured interviews. The aim of the first study (N = 17) was to identify characteristics of the social and physical inner-regional environment that might impact active lifestyles. The aim of the second study (N = 8) was to identify the beliefs of people residing in inner-regional Australia in relation to physical activity and sedentary behaviour. Data from both studies were analysed by thematic analysis. The findings of these studies informed the design of the final, quantitative cross-sectional study. The aims of this study were to estimate the magnitude of the effects of characteristics of the physical and social environment on physical activity-related intentions and habit strength in inner-regional Australians, and to examine the mechanisms through which these factors affect the psychological antecedents of physical activity. An empirically-derived theoretical model was devised to guide the research. Residents of inner-regional Australia (N = 271) completed an online questionnaire, which assessed physical activity-related automaticity, intentions, attitudes, subjective norms, perceived behavioural control (PBC), and autonomous motivation, in addition to perceptions of the social and physical environment, community participation, drivers of neighbourhood selection, and demographic characteristics.

Findings: Neighbourhoods in inner-regional southern Queensland were described as socially cohesive, attractive, and safe. There was a strong culture of support for local sporting teams, and good pedestrian mobility infrastructure within newer housing developments. Such factors may facilitate active lifestyles and have been associated with higher levels of physical activity in previous research. Conversely, weather, poor pedestrian mobility infrastructure, dangerous traffic conditions, distance (particularly for those living outside of towns), and restricted access to destinations presented barriers to active lifestyles. Beliefs that may be conducive to active lifestyles were identified (e.g., favourable health and social outcomes were attributed to physical activity and negative health outcomes were attributed to sedentary behaviour), in addition to beliefs that may be counter to active lifestyles (e.g., features of the physical environment, such as distance to goods, services, and
recreational facilities fostered beliefs about the difficulty of performing physical activity and the inevitability of transport-related sedentary behaviour). Despite the presence of some activity-supportive characteristics of inner-regional settings and beliefs that may be expected to be conducive to active lifestyles, most participants reported largely inactive lifestyles. The findings of the third study revealed that together with past physical activity and social-cognitive constructs, social cohesion, community participation, neighbourhood selection for lifestyle and community, and aesthetics accounted for substantive variation in physical activity-related intentions and automaticity. Neighbourhood selection for lifestyle and community, was associated with lower perceived difficulty to perform physical activity, and subsequently with higher physical activity-related intentions. However, contrary to predictions, the constructs representing the contextual characteristics of innerregional Australia did not exert unique effects on the psychological constructs. Past physical activity predicted all of the psychological and motivational constructs, except for attitudes. The effects of past physical activity on intentions were mediated by subjective norms and PBC. Autonomous motivation predicted automaticity, in addition to attitudes, subjective norms, PBC, and intentions. The
effects of autonomous motivation on intentions were mediated by subjective norms and PBC.

Conclusions: The favourable outcome expectancies attributed to active lifestyles by people in inner-regional Australia are insufficient, on their own, to generate sustained active lifestyles. Likewise, the presence of some activity supportive features of the physical and social environment are insufficient, in isolation, to encourage active lifestyles. The need for social interaction, and normative beliefs appear to be particularly salient in inner-regional communities. Autonomous motivation is a critical component of intentional and implicit processes theorised to predict physical activity. Strategies to encourage active lifestyles in inner-regional Australia should concurrently focus on fostering autonomous motivation for physical activity and minimised sedentary behaviour, and on reducing barriers to, and enhancing opportunities for, active lifestyles within the physical environment. Such strategies may be further enhanced by highlighting and promoting opportunities for social interaction through physical activity participation.

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Item Type: Thesis (PhD/Research)
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Psychology and Counselling (1 Jan 2015 - 31 Dec 2021)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Psychology and Counselling (1 Jan 2015 - 31 Dec 2021)
Supervisors: Ireland, Michael; March, Sonja; Biddle, Stuart
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2019 02:57
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2021 01:39
Uncontrolled Keywords: psychology, health psychology, physical activity, sedentary behaviour, health behaviour
Fields of Research (2008): 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences > 1701 Psychology > 170106 Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology
Fields of Research (2020): 52 PSYCHOLOGY > 5203 Clinical and health psychology > 520399 Clinical and health psychology not elsewhere classified
Identification Number or DOI: doi:10.26192/dca4-mt85

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