Social cognitive theory posits that observing similar others succeed (i.e., vicarious experience) can improve self-efficacy. However, there are very limited data on the utility of vicarious experience in promoting physical activity (PA). This analysis examined the association between vicarious experience and leisure-time PA (LTPA) in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).
Cross-sectional analysis of MESA participants who completed exam 5. LTPA and neighborhood factors were self-reported. Neighborhood factors were converted into aesthetic, walking, and safety scores. Group comparative analyses evaluated differences in variables of interest. The relationship between vicarious experience and recommended LTPA (≥ 7.5 MET-h/week) was assessed via logistic regression. Adjusted odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) are reported.
Participants (N = 4579) were older (69.7 ± 9.4 years), 53% female, 41% Caucasian, 26% Black, 21% Hispanic, and 12% Chinese. Those who reported vicarious experience had 45% (95% CI 1.16–1.81) greater odds of attaining recommended LTPA. Unfavorable walking score was associated with lower odds of attaining recommended LTPA (OR = 0.89, 95% CI 0.79–1.00). The aesthetic and safety scales were not associated with LTPA (OR = 1.00 [95% CI 0.89–1.13] and OR = 0.91 [95% CI 0.82–1.10], respectively).
Programs exposing community-dwelling adults to peers engaging in PA could provide an effective public health approach to increase community-level PA participation.