A Mixed-Methods Analysis of Mechanisms Influencing the Association Between Physical Activity, Affect, and Satisfaction with Life in Adolescents’ Daily Lives

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Bourke, Matthew (2021) A Mixed-Methods Analysis of Mechanisms Influencing the Association Between Physical Activity, Affect, and Satisfaction with Life in Adolescents’ Daily Lives. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


This thesis examined the within-person and between-person associations between physical activity, affect and satisfaction with life in adolescents’ daily lives. Understanding these associations is important because integral affect experienced during physical activity may predict future participation in physical activity behaviours. Additionally, understanding if adolescents who are more active experience more positive incidental affect and satisfaction with life is important to illuminate the benefits of physical activity on wellbeing. Despite growing recognition of the within-person and between-person associations between physical activity, affect, and satisfaction with life, little is known about mechanisms that may moderate or mediate these relationships. Therefore, the overarching aim of this thesis is to investigate the mechanisms that may influence these associations. A mixed-methods design was used to achieve this aim. Overall, 125 adolescents participated in an ecological momentary assessment (EMA) study. They were asked to report their momentary behaviours, physical environment, social context, and affect on multiple occasions each day for four-days. Additionally, participants were asked to complete a daily diary each evening to report on their daily satisfaction with life and domain specific physical activity. Participants also wore an accelerometer to assess device measured levels of physical activity over the four days. Additionally, 15 participants completed semi-structured interviews to identify factors that lead to experiencing more favourable affect whilst active. Results from the EMA study showed that participants who engaged in more recreational moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) on average than others reported more positive valence, greater energetic arousal, and less tense arousal. Additionally, adolescents reported feeling more energetic, but also more tense when participating in more recreational MVPA than usual. No domains of MVPA had a within-person association with valence. Considering the social context and physical environment, adolescents reported more positive valence and energetic arousal whilst outdoors than indoors and more energetic arousal when with others than alone, indicating there may be some additional benefits to being physically active in outdoors and with other people. Additionally, results showed that being active was only inversely related to tense arousal when completed outdoors. Results from semi-structured interviews added to these findings and indicated several social (e.g., doing physical activities alone or with others), environmental (e.g., doing physical activities outdoors), and cognitive factors (e.g., finding activities fun and enjoyable) were perceived by participants to influence their affective experience whilst active. Finally results from daily diaries showed that adolescents were more satisfied with their life on days when they accumulated more device-measured overall, light, and moderate-intensity physical activity than usual. There was also an indirect between-person association between leisure-time physical activity and device-measured vigorous intensity physical activity through energetic arousal. The results from this thesis show that recreational physical activities have the strongest between-person association with subjective wellbeing in adolescents. Physical activity guidelines for mental health that focus on recreational physical activities may be warranted. More research is still needed, however, to fully understand the mechanisms that explain why recreational physical activities are more strongly related to wellbeing. Results also show that the context in which physical activities occur can influence the within-person association with affect. Therefore, it is important to consider the physical environments and social contexts physical activities are participated in when examining the within-person association between physical activity and affect.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/43470
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 4207 Sports science and exercise
Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 5201 Applied and developmental psychology
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords physical activity, adolescents, ecological momentary assessment, wellbeing
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