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I read with interest the article published by Arbillaga-Etxarri et al. titled “Socioenvironmental correlates of physical activity in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)”. In the introduction section, the authors stated that the current interventions (e.g., pharmacological treatment, rehabilitation, self-management) aiming to change physical activity behavior in COPD patients lack effectiveness, particularly in the long-term. The authors argue that this absence of effectiveness could be due to a lack of knowledge of physical activity determinants in this population. To address this issue, Arbillaga-Etxarri et al. examined the socio-ecological determinants of active behaviours in 400 COPD patients and found that, after controlling potential confounders, having a dog and grandparenting were positively associated with physical activity; effects sizes were small, β = .19 and very small β = .08 for dog walking and grandparenting, respectively. The authors concluded that these two socio-environmental characteristics should be considered to promote physical activity both at the clinical level and in future research. This study is important because there is a lack of knowledge regarding the determinants of physical activity in this population.
Nonetheless, there are some reservations regarding the clinical utility of physical activity socio-environmental correlates to design physical activity programs. Socioenvironmental correlates of physica...
Nonetheless, there are some reservations regarding the clinical utility of physical activity socio-environmental correlates to design physical activity programs. Socioenvironmental correlates of physical activity are often largely beyond participants’ control and thus non-modifiable during an intervention for a clinician, such as the ‘walkability’ of the environment. For example, in the current study, only 18 % of the sample had a dog and 12% of the participants reported walking it. The authors explained that patients could have concerns about dogs such as difficulties with controlling the animal, which could explain the lack of dog owners in the study. It could also be hypothesized that patients have a dog because they are already active and feel capable of owning a dog. Nevertheless, it could be difficult to use this leverage during a physical activity counseling intervention.
Physical activity is a complex behavior that may depend from many different factors, such as socio-environmental variables (e.g. age, family support), biological functions (e.g. functional capacity), or environmental factors (e.g. climatic conditions; ‘walkability’ of the environment). Among these potential predictors of physical activity there is an urgent need to identify factors that could be modifiable during an intervention. In this regard, the concept of motivation is an important target.
Motivation could be operationalized through different theoretical constructs, which have received different levels of empirical support regarding their associations with physical activity behaviour depending on the context . These constructs could be clustered into (1) intentional processes (the development of objectives and intentions to be active), (2) affective judgments (feelings about physical activity) (3) self-perception of capability and opportunity (confidences in one’s capacity to be active) (4) self-regulation processes ( strategies used to maintain motivation and dealing with barriers) and (5) automatic or unconscious processes (physical activity habits driven by feelings about physical activity). Methodologically, these processes are often measured through either self-reported questionnaires  or computerized reaction-time tests. To date, research dealing with motivational processes toward physical activity for patients with chronic respiratory disease are scarce. Selzler et al  found that stronger physical activity-specific self-efficacy was positively associated with exercise attendance, as well as 6-minute walk test improvement during pulmonary rehabilitation. Chevance et al  highlighted that unconscious feelings (measuring with computerized test) about physical activity prospectively predict self-reported physical activity at 6 months after pulmonary rehabilitation. These preliminary results are important because identifying modifiable determinants of physical activity could help (i) to motivate patient to integrate a program, or identify patient at risk to failing physical activity after an intervention and (ii) to design more effective evidence-based interventions regarding physical activity in COPD patients. In conclusion, future studies should consider the motivational determinants of physical activity as well as interventions to specifically enhance motivation.
Acknowledgments : I sincerely thank Anne-Marie Selzler for their comments
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