Move that body!

Erwin Apitzsch
Dept. of Psychology, Lund University 

Bess H. Marcus & LeighAnn H. Forsyth
Motivating People to Be Physically Active: Second Edition
200 sidor, hft.
Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics 2009 (Physical Activity Intervention Series)
ISBN 978-0-7360-7247-2

This book is an updated second edition. To publish updated editions of books in the area of sport and exercise psychology is nowadays as common as publishing new books. This may be a result of the ever increasing knowledge in the field, and, maybe, of the fact that most areas are already covered.

The first edition of Motivating People to be Physically Active was published in 2003. The second edition claims to be fully updated and include recent recommendations as well as pros and cons for physical activity, description of the benefits of a physically active lifestyle, and the use of technology. The first edition covered 11 chapters on 218 pages, whereas the new edition covers 10 chapters on 198 pages in a slightly bigger size. Two chapters in part one of the first edition have been merged into one chapter, Putting Theories to Work by Looking at Mediators of Change,in the second edition.

Part one contains Theoretical Background and Tools for Measuring Motivational Readiness and part two Applications. Each chapter contains an introduction and a description of the topical content and a conclusion, supplemented with tables, figures, case studies, and pictures whenever appropriate. The two appendices contain the eight questionnaires related to motivational readiness for behaviour change, and a list of organisations, suggested readings, and helpful websites, which can be used when planning physical activity programmes.

The purpose of the book is to translate theories and concepts from behavioural science research into guidelines for health professionals to be used in individual, group, workplace, or community settings. The main focus is to develop programmes that help adult people to increase their daily physical activity primarily by taking the stairs more often at work, raking leaves in the yard, and playing basketball with the kids.

There are only 26 new references dated 2004 or later, of which only seven are dated the last three years.

The basic principles to engage people in (more) physical activity is to start at a very low intensity level, to individualise the programme (should be fun), and adapt the programme to the individual’s lifestyle (home-based exercise programmes instead of gym-based programmes), realising that behavioural change is not an easy process. The theoretical background for initiating change is the transtheoretical model or the stages of motivational readiness for change. The five stages cover the change from “Inactive and not thinking about becoming more active”, to “Making physical activity a habit”. Since most intervention programmes are designed for people in stage 3 (Doing some physical activity) and stage 4 (Doing enough physical activity), more than half of the population (in the United States) have to be very motivated to take initiatives for a change. Therefore, more intervention programmes should be aiming at people in stages 1 and 2 (Inactive and thinking about becoming more active) and be conducted in such a way as to ensure a match between treatment strategies and people’s stages of motivational readiness for change. A low-cost, relatively low-intensity, community based intervention programme over six weeks (reported 1992), consisting of stage-matched self-help materials, a resource manual, and weekly fun walks, resulted in considerable changes in physical activity. Thus, important changes in physical activity patterns can be achieved with low costs and low intensity. Analyses of participants’ responses to questionnaires at the beginning of the programme and three months later revealed that more subjects in the stage-matched group than in the non-stage-matched group became more active. The programme was most effective for people in stages 1, 2, and 3.  A word of caution is that we do not know about the health benefits of low-intensity activities (scientific evidence is not yet available).Although I am mainly positive to the book, I have a few critical remarks. There are only 26 new references dated 2004 or later, of which only seven are dated the last three years. I miss, for example, more recent studies on stage-matched programmes. The study reported 1992 (see above) is the only one mentioned in this area. Although the authors point out that we are just in the beginning to learn how to match physical activity programmes to our target groups, my question is: Has nothing happened in the last 17 years? The same criticism concerns a study from 1992 describing the distribution of people on the five stages of change in a workplace. Are there really no more recent studies on this, providing information on the contemporary situation in the population in different countries or on worksites?

I find the book very practical and useful as a tool for helping people to change their behaviour from being physically inactive to become regular exercisers. The whole approach is mainly scientifically based, and has an intuitive appeal. The message transferred is to take a client-centred approach, including personal successes and previous behaviour changes, motivational readiness for changes, self-confidence, goal-setting, type of activity, intensity level, social support, and environment. Questionnaires and many practical examples constitute the tools which can be used. Among the many practical examples, I found the following perspective-widening advice especially worthwhile to emphasise: A useful recommendation is to ask friends for walks or bike rides rather than lunch or coffee.

In my opinion, this book is a most valuable tool for all those who are engaged in promoting behaviour change, whether it is on an individual, group, workplace, or community level.






© Erwin Apitzsch 2009.

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