Physical activity and mental health
Wilson, Kathryn Eliabeth
MetadataShow full item record
Evidence supports a relationship between physical activity (PA) and affective experience, but studies have been heterogeneous in methods and outcomes. In particular, how individual differences among people (e.g., personality) may modify or otherwise help explain physical activity exposure and its affective outcomes related to mental health has been understudied. This document first summarizes the relevance of personality theory to the relationship between physical activity and positive psychological outcomes. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature on PA and personality then corroborates an earlier report of significant relationships between PA level and Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Conscientiousness, and presents new evidence of a significant relationship with Openness. Next, a structural regression model is tested that confirms differences in correlations between personality and PA depending on whether PA was measured with self-reports or accelerometers. Trait level behavioral approach system functioning (BAS) predicted self-reported PA level, whereas trait level behavioral inhibition system functioning (BIS) and Neuroticism predicted objective PA. A suppression effect was observed for the prediction of objective PA by BIS, imposed by Neuroticism. The model was extended to test the role of personality in the relationship between PA and mental health. Results support moderation by an interaction between Extraversion and Neuroticism. Lastly, a laboratory experiment demonstrated no effect for personality groups based on sensitivity to reward and punishment cues in the effect of acute exercise on the acoustic startle eyeblink response during affective picture viewing, an objective measure of emotional responding. However, these data do suggest a role for cognitive factors, specifically perceptions of control, in modifying subjective ratings of neutral stimuli after exercise. Future research using objective measures of physical activity along with a valid personality tool, and measures of behavioral and/or physiological correlates of personality factors is recommended to more precisely describe the influence of personality on psychological outcomes of exercise. Attempts to identify potential interactions between personality and cognitive factors in effects of exercise on psychological outcomes are also warranted.