Physical activity and identity; a qualitative evaluation of an intervention based on the Physical Activity Self-Definition Model


Background: Viewing oneself as a physically active person can promote physical activity (PA), yet we know little about how to build these PA self-perceptions. The Physical Activity Self-Definition (PASD) Model postulates correlates of PASD: commitment and ability with respect to PA are direct determinants of PASD, while indirect determinants are perceived trying, wanting and enjoyment. This model explains PASD among active samples yet past research has not tested whether PASD Model variables can be targeted to increase PASD and PA. The purpose of this qualitative study was to assess whether PASD model variables are relevant as inactive people try to increase their PA. Methods: Inactive participants between the ages of 18 and 64 years were randomized to participate in a group-mediated intervention that either targeted PASD Model variables (n = 64) or health topics (control group; n = 57) over five weeks. We conducted 60-90 minute semi-structured interviews with 15 intervention participants after intervention completion. Interviews were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. Emergent themes and subthemes were created using thematic analysis and the PASD Model as a framework. Results: Participants expressed that PASD Model variables (PA commitment, ability, trying, wanting, enjoyment and/or PA) were relevant to their attempts to increase PA along with three additional themes: PA benefits, self-acceptance and common humanity. This study is the first quantitative assessment of a PASD Model-based intervention. PASD model variables targeted in an intervention were relevant as inactive people tried to increase their PA, yet additional factors were relevant to their PA efforts.