Mr and Mrs: How 'I Do' Impacts Physical Activity in Married Individuals



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This dissertation presents three separate studies designed to investigate the relationship between marriage and physical activity behavior. First, a systematic literature review of nineteen articles presents qualitative and quantitative articles from 2000 to 2010 that focus on the relationship between marriage and physical activity and/or exercise. Based on the findings from the review, social support (or lack of support), culturally-determined gender roles, environmental factors such as income level, and intrapersonal factors such as self-efficacy each influenced spousal physical activity.

Secondly, a qualitative study based on interviews and photographs from twenty-four married individuals utilized Social Cognitive Theory to explore the mechanisms, determinants, and influences of spousal physical activity. Findings indicate verbal persuasion by husbands encouraged wives, yet verbal persuasion by wives was perceived as nagging by men. While verbal persuasion by husbands increased a small number of wives' sense of self-efficacy, the majority of women felt that persuasion increased motivation, not necessarily confidence. Findings also highlighted the power of modeling to increase husbands' physical activity. Overwhelmingly, men reacted more positively to modeling than verbal persuasion.

Lastly, a second qualitative piece employed General Systems Theory to conceive of the marital unit as a type of system working within other broader systems. Findings highlighted the desire for increased quality time as a motivator for physical activity within the marital system. Also, the larger cultural, occupational, and familial systems greatly influenced marital dyads. Cultural expectations to be the primary caregiver negatively impacted wives while occupational pressures negatively influenced both parts of the marital dyad. Regarding the familial system, parents cited the influence of their own parents as well as a desire to "pass on" exemplary physical activity habits to their children. Finally, couples with children highlighted an increase in exercise frequency yet decrease in exercise intensity.