Theoretical Models and Interventions to Increase Physical Activity Among Adults: A Historical Review

Meenakshi Khatta, MS, CRNP


Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2008;8(1) 

In This Article


Regular physical activity is an important component of a healthy lifestyle. This has been validated by scientific evidence linking regular physical activity to a wide array of physical and mental health benefits.[1,2,3] The goal of increasing physical activity in the United States is 1 of 10 "leading indicator" areas described in Healthy People 2010.[4]

Increased physical activity can have a significant effect on the incidence of:[5,6,7]

  • Coronary heart disease;

  • Hypertension;

  • Stroke;

  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus;

  • Obesity;

  • Colon cancer; and

  • Total morbidity and mortality.

Epidemiologic studies such as the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention trial (MRFIT),[8] the Aerobic Center Cohort,[5] the Alameda County Cohort,[9] and the National Longitudinal Study on Aging,[10] have all shown decreased mortality risk with participation in moderate physical activity. Given these benefits, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine[11] have recommended that every American adult accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (eg, brisk walking, gardening, etc.) most days of the week.[12]

Despite the known benefits, most people in the United States do not engage in regular physical activity. Only 25% of adults report engaging in recommended levels of physical activity (either 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity 5 or more days per week or 20 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity 3 or more days per week). Twenty-nine percent report no leisure-time regular physical activity.[13] Advanced practice nurses (APNs) are in a unique position to help patients to exercise at recommended levels. It is reported that 70% of adults come in contact with their providers at least once a year.[14] This article addresses the theoretical concepts, counseling process as well as barriers to affect behavior change.


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