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Member Research and Reports

Florida: Study Finds Bidirectional Relationship Between Stress and Physical Activity Among Adults with Overweight or Obesity

Physical activity plays a key role in weight management, yet most adults don’t meet minimum guidelines for weekly activity. A new University of Florida study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine examines one of the potential barriers to exercise: stress.

Ms. Andrea Brockmann, a PhD student, and Dr. Kathryn Ross, an assistant professor, both in the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions’ department of clinical and health psychology, investigated week-by-week associations between stress and physical activity among 75 adults who had participated in a three-month weight loss program. The participants were then monitored for an additional nine months after the end of this program. During the entire study year, participants reported their physical activity each week on a study website. At this same time, they also completed a questionnaire designed to assess factors that were hypothesized to be associated with weight loss and regain.

The researchers found that higher ratings of stress in a given week were associated with fewer minutes of physical activity that same week, as well as the following week. They also discovered that greater engagement in physical activity in one week predicted lower ratings of stress the following week.

“Given that stress in one week was not only associated with less physical activity the same week but also predicted less physical activity the following week, stress may be a useful indicator that a person might need additional support,” the researchers write.

New intervention methods, such as smart-phone based just-in-time adaptive interventions, could provide customized content when participants need it, they write.

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