Group versus solo physical activity in the reduction of stress, anxiety and depression
The physical and psychological health enhancing benefits of physical activity have been well established (US Department of Health & Human Services, 1996; Warburton, Nicol & Bredin, 2006) and reviews support the anxiolytic, antidepressant and stress reducing effects of physical activity, but it is unclear if group or solo physical activity is more effective in the reduction of these forms of psychological distress. A recent survey found that approximately a third of adults in Scotland do not engage in sufficient levels of physical activity recommended to achieve these benefits. The aim of this thesis was to investigate the effectiveness of group versus solo physical activity in the reduction of psychological distress (including stress, depression and anxiety) and factors involved in participation to promote greater engagement in physical activity. The first study issued questionnaires to members of the general population and university students. Inverse correlations were found between group physical activity and psychological distress in both samples. However a single positive correlation was found between anxiety and solo physical activity in the student sample, which suggests that group physical activity may be more effective in the reduction of psychological distress than solo physical activity. Low active individuals appeared to prefer solo physical activity to group, which may be due to lower perceived barriers. More active participants either preferred group activity or had no preferences between group or solo activity, despite also perceiving greater barriers to group than solo activity. The second study allocated university students to a group versus solo jogging condition intervention and found that psychological distress increased for those allocated to solo jogging, but did not increase amongst those allocated to group jogging, suggesting that group physical activity may protect against university related distress. Those allocated to group jogging engaged in (non-significantly) more jogging and engaged in significantly more moderately intensive physical activity throughout the intervention than those allocated to solo jogging. The final study compared group and solo physical activity using the Theory of Planned Behaviour and structural equation modelling. The model explained more variance in group physical activity than variance in solo physical activity. When the model was expanded, self-efficacy made a significantly greater contribution to intention in the solo physical activity model than it did in the group activity model, therefore promotion of group physical activity may not be as dependent on self-efficacy as solo physical activity. Perceived autonomy support (PAS) was included in the model, as guided by modification indexes, but only the group physical activity model was significantly improved by the addition of PAS; this may be useful for the development of group physical activity promotion. This thesis finds some support that group physical activity may be associated with reduced psychological distress and be more beneficial in protecting against psychological distress than solo physical activity. Promotion of group physical activity may benefit from reducing perceived barriers, developing PAS, and having less reliance on self-efficacy than required for the promotion of solo physical activity.