Theoretical approaches to the promotion of physical activity: forging a transdisciplinary paradigm

Am J Prev Med. 2002 Aug;23(2 Suppl):15-25. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(02)00470-1.


Background: Research in the physical activity promotion arena has focused on the application of theoretical perspectives aimed primarily at personal levels of understanding and analysis. The investigation of such theories has provided some insights related to potentially useful mediators of physical activity behavior. However, to continue to expand this field, new perspectives on personal-level theories, in addition to the exploration of more macro-level conceptual perspectives, are required.

Objective: The purpose of this article is to: (1) briefly review the current strengths and limitations of the personal-level, physical activity-theory literature; and (2) introduce concepts and perspectives from other fields, including the social-ecology and urban-planning fields, of potential relevance to the physical activity arena.

Method: We provide an overview of potentially relevant theoretical perspectives aimed at different levels of understanding and analysis, from the personal level through the broader-scale meso- and macro-environmental perspectives. In addition, we suggest initial steps to take in developing a transdisciplinary paradigm encompassing all such levels of analysis and investigation.

Conclusions: Given the scope of the physical inactivity epidemic facing the U.S. population currently and in the future, methods and approaches that integrate theory and concepts across a broader group of disciplines will be increasingly necessary.

MeSH terms

  • Choice Behavior
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Research Design