exercise, exercise self-definition, physical activity, women



  1. Hays, Laura M. PhD
  2. Damush, Teresa M. PhD
  3. Clark, Daniel O. PhD


Exercising prevents the development of coronary artery disease and reduces the incidence of cardiovascular risk factors; however, the mechanisms that underlie participation in an exercise program are not well understood. On the basis of theories of the self, we hypothesized that exercise self-definitions would be significantly related to exercise participation and that such definitions would increase over time. The study sample consisted of 192 middle-aged to older women who were leading a mostly sedentary life and the majority had at least one cardiovascular risk factor. Exercise participation was defined as the number of exercise sessions completed at 8 and 24 weeks. We found an interesting pattern of significant relationships between exercise definitions and exercise participation. Six-month scores were significantly higher than baseline scores, suggesting that exercise self-definitions strengthened over time. If this result is found to be supported in future studies, nurses may want to consider assessing self-definitions when helping patients initiate and maintain an exercise program.