Background: A randomized controlled trial was conducted to examine: (a) the effect of two physical activity modes on changes in subjective well-being (SWB) over the course of a 12-month period in older, formerly sedentary adults (N = 174, M age = 65.5 years) and (b) the role played by physical activity participation and social support in changes in SWB over time.
Method: Participants were randomized into either an aerobic activity group or a stretching and toning group. Structural equation modeling was employed to conduct multiple sample latent growth curve analyses of individual growth in measures of SWB (happiness, satisfaction with life, and loneliness) over time.
Results: A curvilinear growth pattern was revealed with well-being significantly improving over the course of the intervention followed by significant declines at the 6-month follow-up. Subsequent structural analyses were conducted showing that frequency of exercise participation was a significant predictor of improvement in satisfaction with life, whereas social relations were related to increases in satisfaction with life and reductions in loneliness. Improvements in social relations and exercise frequency also helped to buffer the declines in satisfaction with life at follow-up.
Conclusions: It appears that social relations integral to the exercise environment are significant determinants of subjective well-being in older adults. Findings are discussed in terms of how physical activity environments might be structured to maximize improvements in more global well-being constructs such as satisfaction with life.
Copyright 2000 American Health Foundation and Academic Press.