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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Cardiovascular risk profile: Cross-sectional analysis of motivational determinants, physical fitness and physical activity

Barbara Sassen1*, Gerjo Kok2, Herman Schaalma2, Henri Kiers1 and Luc Vanhees13

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health and Lifestyle, University of Applied Sciences, Utrecht, the Netherlands

2 Department of Work and Social Psychology, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands

3 Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:592  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-592

Published: 7 October 2010

Abstract

Background

Cardiovascular risk factors are associated with physical fitness and, to a lesser extent, physical activity. Lifestyle interventions directed at enhancing physical fitness in order to decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases should be extended. To enable the development of effective lifestyle interventions for people with cardiovascular risk factors, we investigated motivational, social-cognitive determinants derived from the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) and other relevant social psychological theories, next to physical activity and physical fitness.

Methods

In the cross-sectional Utrecht Police Lifestyle Intervention Fitness and Training (UP-LIFT) study, 1298 employees (aged 18 to 62) were asked to complete online questionnaires regarding social-cognitive variables and physical activity. Cardiovascular risk factors and physical fitness (peak VO2) were measured.

Results

For people with one or more cardiovascular risk factors (78.7% of the total population), social-cognitive variables accounted for 39% (p < .001) of the variance in the intention to engage in physical activity for 60 minutes every day. Important correlates of intention to engage in physical activity were attitude (beta = .225, p < .001), self-efficacy (beta = .271, p < .001), descriptive norm (beta = .172, p < .001) and barriers (beta = -.169, p < .01). Social-cognitive variables accounted for 52% (p < .001) of the variance in physical active behaviour (being physical active for 60 minutes every day). The intention to engage in physical activity (beta = .469, p < .001) and self-efficacy (beta = .243, p < .001) were, in turn, important correlates of physical active behavior.

In addition to the prediction of intention to engage in physical activity and physical active behavior, we explored the impact of the intensity of physical activity. The intentsity of physical activity was only significantly related to physical active behavior (beta = .253, p < .01, R2 = .06, p < .001). An important goal of our study was to investigate the relationship between physical fitness, the intensity of physical activity and social-cognitive variables. Physical fitness (R2 = .23, p < .001) was positively associated with physical active behavior (beta = .180, p < .01), self-efficacy (beta = .180, p < .01) and the intensity of physical activity (beta = .238, p < .01).

For people with one or more cardiovascular risk factors, 39.9% had positive intentions to engage in physical activity and were also physically active, and 10.5% had a low intentions but were physically active. 37.7% had low intentions and were physically inactive, and about 11.9% had high intentions but were physically inactive.

Conclusions

This study contributes to our ability to optimize cardiovascular risk profiles by demonstrating an important association between physical fitness and social-cognitive variables. Physical fitness can be predicted by physical active behavior as well as by self-efficacy and the intensity of physical activity, and the latter by physical active behavior.

Physical active behavior can be predicted by intention, self-efficacy, descriptive norms and barriers. Intention to engage in physical activity by attitude, self-efficacy, descriptive norms and barriers. An important input for lifestyle changes for people with one or more cardiovascular risk factors was that for ca. 40% of the population the intention to engage in physical activity was in line with their actual physical active behavior.