October Research and Commentary

Physical Activity’s Relationship with Life Satisfaction 

Summary (Review) :

In the academic journal Daily Physical Activity and Life Satisfaction Across Adulthood, the contributors come to question the link, or if there is one, between physical activity and satisfaction with life. The authors aimed to research and analyze the relations between physical activity and satisfaction throughout life. Not only were they interested in finding the bridge that connected the ideas, but they decided to use a very inclusive and all-encompassing group of participants. The overall purpose of the study was to add evidence to the claim that daily changes in physical activity do have impact on well-being regardless of age. The researches hypothesized that “(a) daily physical activity would be positively associated with daily life satisfaction across the adult life span (within-person association); (b) usual physical activity and life satisfaction would be positively associated among older but not younger adults (between-person association); (c) the association between usual physical activity and life satisfaction would be mediated by the beneficial effects of physical activity on physical and mental health; and (d) levels of life satisfaction would differ across the adult life span, with emerging and older adults experiencing lower levels of life satisfaction and midlife adults experiencing higher levels of life satisfaction” (Maher, Pincus, Ram, and Conroy 1409). Written and conducted by Jaclyn P. Maher, Aaron L. Pincus, Nilam Ram, and David E. Conroy, the authors have conducted a plan to accomplish their research goals. 

The participants of the study are community-dwelling adults in the United States. Community-dwelling adults are considered to be people between the ages of 18 and 89 years old. Because the research conductors wanted a large spectrum of ages, they referred to four main developmental periods; emerging adulthood (ages 18-25), young adulthood (ages 26-34), middle adulthood/midlife (ages 35-64), and older adulthood (ages 65+). 150 community-dwelling adults participated in this research study. Of the 150 participants, 51% of them were women. There were 22 individuals aged 18 to 24, 27 individuals aged 25 to 34, 30 individuals aged 35 to 49, 41 individuals aged 50 to 64, and 30 individuals aged 65+. 91% of the 150 participants were Caucasian, 4% African American, 1% Asian American, 2% mixed, and 2% other. Along with varying ages, races, and gender, there was also a mix of employment. At the start of the study, 49% reported being employed full-time, 30% employed part-time or were students, 18% retired, and 3% were not employed. The average amount of schooling came out to be slightly more than 16 years, and most of the participants (67%) reported to be married, 15% single, 14% divorced, separated, or widowed, and 4% in casual relationships. 

In order to collect data for the study, the researchers had each participant create a daily dairy to track not only their daily physical activity, but also their levels of satisfaction for the day. The same 150 participants were studied over three, 21-day measurement bursts. The daily diary entries were completed via web- and smartphone-based questionnaires during visits to the lab as they went about their daily lives. Once a 21-day period was completed, the participants were required to take a break before starting the next. The average time between the first and second time periods was 4.5 months, and 3.5 months between the second and third period. The average completion time was 10.2 months. A total of 14 participants did not complete the study; 10 between the first and second, and 4 between the second and third. Reasons for discontinuing the study included moving out of the area, discontinuation due to noncompliance with the research protocol, and health problems. Data was collected for 8,574 days of the 8,946 possible, leading to a 95.8% response rate. The daily diaries conducted over three, 21-day measurements allow for an optimal sampling period to be recorded and analyzed. With the three, 21-day periods, it allows a complete recording of physical activity and satisfaction throughout different seasons, weather patterns, life occurrences, and social calendars. Data was collected via end-of-day surveys and the initial demographic questionnaire. The portion of the diary that evaluated life satisfaction used a modified version of the Satisfaction With Life Scale, where participants entered a value from 0 (strongly disagree) to 100 (strongly agree) on how satisfied they were with their life that specific day. Physical activity was measured using the Godin Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire, but slightly modified. Participants were to record how many times they engaged in strenuous, moderate, and mild exercise, for at least 10 minutes throughout the day. On top of recording physical activity and satisfaction the survey captured daily physical and mental health as well. Participants recorded, on the same 0-100 scale, how they felt their mental and physical health was for the current day. 

Once the study came to a close and the data was all collected, it showed an average of moderate-to-high levels of daily life satisfaction (70.16 on a 0-100 scale). Average level of daily physical activity was about equal to two bouts of moderate-intensity physical activity, each day. The self-reported daily physical and mental health averaged 67.7 on the 0-100 scale. “Life satisfaction had weak positive correlations with physical activity,… and strong correlations with physical health and mental health…. Life satisfaction was not correlated (linearly) with age” (Maher, Pincus, Ram, and Conroy 1412). The researchers found that life satisfaction decreased from ages 18 to 35, held steady or increased during 36 to 68 years old, and then again steadily decreased in ages 69 to 89. 

Critique (Analysis) :

After thoroughly reading through the academic journal, I find that the question the researchers brought up is a very valid one. Understanding the factors that influence our life satisfaction make it easier to reevaluate our lives and how we may make changes in hopes to optimize our life satisfaction. I find their daily survey and questionnaire method to be a well thought out approach to allow for proper input from participants. I find that the group of participants selected could have been a bit more diverse to further encompass the general population of the United States. The number of participants, and the varying ages of participants, was scaled well and allowed for equal input from the varying ages of adulthood. Based on the research that the research conductors read, they were educated in the matter, and had their ow unique ideas to expand the research. With their goal being to provide more data to support the current research, they determined the most effective method would be through surveys and questionnaires. The results collected directly speak to their research question, and therefore help to provide more data to the study. The overall results from the study seem to be on par with other recent and relevant studies, and supports the claim that life satisfaction is lower and/or decreasing during emerging and young adulthood and older adulthood. I find the main limitation in the study to be the diversity, or lack thereof, of participants. The conclusion and analysis of data collected aids in the support of the question researched.

Pertinence (Application) :

This research is relevant to health practitioners, patients, education, students, teachers, and myself and my goals. By providing supporting research and data to suggest that there is room for improvement in both physical activity as well as life satisfaction, everyone can benefit from having more activity and satisfaction in their lives. Knowing the relationship between physical activity and life satisfaction can help to make changes and then create a positive growth in life satisfaction. Now we are able to consider changing our level of physical activity in order to influence our satisfaction in life.

Peer Reviewed Academic Journal Research Article


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