Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Dixie L. Thompson

Committee Members

David R. Bassett, Leslee A. Fisher, Lisa Jahns


The purpose of this study was to determine if length of contact with a fitness professional impacts adherence, physical characteristics, exercise self-efficacy, feelings of social support, and perceived barriers during a walking intervention utilizing the 10,000 steps per day recommendation. A secondary purpose of this study was to document the specific strategies that previously inactive women use to successfully build walking into their day. Participants were 55 previously inactive women (45.6 ± 5.8 y) who were randomly assigned to either 4-weeks or 12-weeks of weekly contact with a researcher. Group assignment had no effect on any variable of interest (p > 0.05). Overall, participants were more active compared to baseline, saw improvements to body mass, body fat percentage, body mass index (BMI), and waist and hip circumference (p < 0.001). There was an overall decrease in perceived barriers at weeks 4, 12, and 24 (p < 0.001). Self-efficacy and perceived social support increased at weeks 4 and 12 (p < 0.001), but returned to baseline by week 24. Participants were also divided into adherers (averaged ≥ 9500 steps/day) and non-adherers. Adherers had lower perceived barriers compared to non-adherers at week 24 (p < 0.001). Adherers also had higher exercise self-efficacy at week 24 compared to non-adherers (p < 0.001). Perceived social support was similar among adherers and non-adherers. Adherers also had a significant decrease in body mass and BMI compared to baseline (p < 0.001) while the non-adherers saw no change. Strategies that participants used to increase steps included purposeful walking, making every step count, and constant self-monitoring. This study addressed several aspects of social cognitive theory and found that it may be important to increase levels of exercise self-efficacy and decrease perceived barriers in order to see adherence with a daily walking program. The role that social support plays is still not understood and it was not associated with exercise behavior in this sample. Four weeks of contact was just as effective as 12 weeks for influencing adherence, hence, the minimum amount of time needed with a fitness professional remains unknown.

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