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Exercise motivation improves fitness among healthy adults

Chase JA, Conn VS  Meta-analysis of fitness outcomes from motivational physical activity interventions  Nursing Research, 62(5), 294-304.

Review question

Do motivational approaches designed to increase physical activity improve fitness among healthy adults?


Chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke, are the leading cause of death in the world. Lack of exercise is one of the major causes of chronic illness. Cardiorespiratory fitness is the ability of your heart and lungs to supply oxygen to the muscles while being physically active and is a health indicator: improved cardiorespiratory fitness means lower risk of chronic illness.  Motivational approaches (such as education and encouragement about exercising) help to encourage people to exercise, but it is not clear how they affect cardiorespiratory fitness.  

How the review was done

This high quality systematic review included 128 studies including a total of 11 458 healthy adults.  The average age of participants was 44 years and the majority (over 80%) were women. All studies used motivational-type approaches to encourage physical activity including education sessions, doctor’s recommendations, exercise prescriptions, and counseling. Impacts on fitness were monitored using a VO2max test or estimate, measuring how long people exercised for and how much energy they put into it.

What the researchers found

Motivational-type physical activity approaches improved cardiorespiratory fitness among healthy adults. Younger adults showed more improvement. Older adults may need different types of motivation and exercises to improve or maintain their fitness. Recommendations that encouraged a combination of endurance (eg. walking) and resistance exercises (eg. weight lifting) were more beneficial than those that just recommended endurance exercises.


Motivational physical activity approaches improve the fitness of healthy adults, especially those that use a combination of endurance and resistance exercises.



Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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