Study to explore women’s emotional barriers to exercise

Losing weight is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions, but many people struggle to get enough exercise to make such a resolution stick. University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers want to help women get more exercise by finding out the underlying issues that might keep them from exercising. Researchers are recruiting women ages 25-44 with a body mass index of 25-29.9 kg/m2 to join the Counseling and Activity Lifestyle Modification (CALM) Study.

Jane Roy, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of EducationDepartment of Human Studies, is leading the study supported by colleagues and students in the Kinesiology, Health

Education and Counselor Education programs and the UAB Nutrition Obesity Research Center Physical Activity and Exercise Core.

“Exercise really is medicine,” Roy said. “Physicians know exercise works and everyone knows they should do it, but so many people are sedentary. We’re learning that the reasons are multifactorial.”

While environmental and cultural factors contribute to difficulty in exercising regularly, the CALM study could show that emotional issues also can keep women from sticking to an exercise routine. To test that, all participants will be asked to commit to a regimen of walking three times weekly during the study, but one group will also receive positive psychotherapy sessions. A group of study participants will receive positive psychotherapy sessions in addition to a three-times-per-week walking regimen.

In addition to removing barriers such as access to exercise facilities, support from peers and time-management issues, Roy hopes that working to improve body image and self-esteem will help keep women exercising after the study ends.

“Studies don’t typically change habits, and we wonder if emotions are the missing link,” Roy said.

After measuring their baseline health and aerobic fitness, researchers will monitor participants for 12 weeks during the study and follow up 12 weeks afterward to gauge their adherence to the exercise regimen.

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