Physical Activity for Health Promotion: More Than an Individual Choice.
Given that we know the benefits of an active lifestyle, it's ironic that physical inactivity is under-researched compared to the similarly risky problems of smoking and obesity. Canada Research Chair Dr. Lawrence Brawley is helping to fill this gap by investigating the kinds of social and behavioural changes that contribute to the ability of people to manage their own "programs" of physical activity. He also studies how people maintain physically active lifestyles over the long term.
While most people know that being active is good for them, they often struggle with the changes in lifestyle that are necessary to accommodate an active lifestyle. Consequently, they may fail to stick with the changes and then pay dearly later.
Individuals who make the changes successfully learn how often to be active, how to pace their efforts, and how to manage their physical activity so that it occurs regularly in their busy lives. While we can see that this success breeds confidence and persistence, we know little about how some individuals maintain the changes for years. This knowledge may be essential if we are to help people preserve the normal physical functioning they take for granted as they age, maintain weight loss, or manage chronic disease (such as arthritis and diabetes).
In his research, Dr. Brawley explores different ways to help people change their behaviour and improve their ability to stick with the new behaviour. His interventions have already helped older adults with cardiovascular disease improve their physical function and quality of life. In the process, he has found that social factors (such as a person's dependence on health-care providers, or support by peers), as well as individual differences (such as a person's sex, or ability to solve social problems) can affect how the person responds to the intervention and influences its effectiveness.
One of the challenges facing Dr. Brawley is whether his research interventions can be implemented at the community-level and in multiple municipalities. His Canada Research Chair is allowing him to build upon the promise shown in his interventions with older adults by using existing community-university collaborations to determine if intervention programs will work in the community.