Targeting Physical Inactivity Using Behavioral Theory in Chronic, Disabling Diseases

Dori Pekmezi; Robert Motl


Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2022;50(3):156-161. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Physical inactivity and comorbidities (e.g., hypertension) result in poor prognoses among persons with chronic, disabling conditions including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson disease, and stroke. Theory can guide the design of behavior change interventions that can be delivered remotely for broad scale implementation. We hypothesize that theory-based behavior change interventions can increase physical activity and reduce comorbidities and associated consequences among persons with chronic, disabling conditions.


Persons with chronic, disabling diseases and conditions represent a large portion of the United States and worldwide populations, yet they are disproportionately targeted for health promotion, particularly physical activity behavior change, within public health. We will briefly review the magnitude of the problems of physical inactivity and related comorbidities (e.g., hypertension, depression) among persons with multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson disease (PD), and stroke, as well as the strong evidence (and guidelines) for the safety and benefits of physical activity participation in these patient populations. We will then pinpoint gaps in the research literature in this area, including the use of 1) behavior change theory for promoting physical activity among persons with chronic, disabling diseases and conditions and determining the specific issues surrounding capability, opportunity, and motivation for physical activity behavior, and 2) technology to improve access to theory-based behavior change interventions and thereby reduce related health disparities. Our hypothesis is that scalable theory-based behavior change interventions targeting physical activity can substantially reduce comorbidities and improve prognoses for the growing numbers of individuals living with chronic, disabling diseases and conditions.