Do physical activity recommendations matter for long-term maintenance?


One in five Canadian adults meet the national physical activity recommendation but do they maintain this goal? The purposes of this study were to (a) examine whether psychosocial factors theorized as associated with long-term exercise maintenance differ between those who do and do not meet the recommendation and (b) assess their awareness of current recommendations. The sample included 357 self-identified exercise maintainers (M age = 32 ± 12 years) who maintained their activity for an average of 6.98 ± 3.92 years. An online survey assessed psychosocial variables related to exercise maintenance and awareness of recommendations. Two groups were identified: participants approaching/meeting (n = 71) or those exceeding (n = 286) the recommendation. A MANOVA compared the groups on the psychosocial variables. The MANOVA was significant, p <.0001, partial ?2 = .116. Follow-up univariate comparisons revealed that exercise maintainers exceeding the recommendation reported significantly higher distal outcome expectations, satisfaction, self-regulatory efficacy, and recovery efficacy (p<.01). Regardless of group, the majority of respondents either were unaware of the national physical activity recommendation or incorrectly identified it. Surprisingly, only 56 of 357 individuals correctly identified it. Although theorized social cognitions were strongest for maintainers meeting the recommendation all maintainers expressed high values possibly because maintenance has continued for years. Meeting personal expectations, being satisfied with these, and being efficacious about self-regulating activity appear more strongly related to maintenance than national physical activity recommendations. Messaging to encourage maintenance may need to emphasize salient psychosocial content versus national goals.