Background: Physical activity has been effective in enhancing quality of life (QOL) of older adults over relatively short periods of time. However, little is known about the long-term effects of physical activity and even less about the possible mediators of this relationship.
Purpose: We examined the mediating effects of psychological variables on the relationship between physical activity and global QOL (satisfaction with life) in older adults over a 4-year period.
Methods: Participants (N = 174, M age = 66.7 years) completed a battery of psychosocial measures at 1 and 5 years following enrollment in a 6-month randomized controlled exercise trial.
Results: Panel analysis conducted within a covariance modeling framework indicated that physical activity was related to self-efficacy, physical self-esteem, and positive affect at 1 year, and in turn, greater levels of self-efficacy and positive affect were associated with higher levels of QOL. Analyses indicated that changes in physical activity over the 4-year period were related to increases in physical self-esteem and positive affect, but only positive affect directly influenced improvements in QOL.
Conclusions: The findings lend support to the position that physical activity effects on QOL are in part mediated by intermediate psychological outcomes and that physical activity can have long-term effects on well-being.