Enjoyment: A Link to Physical Activity, Leisure, and Health


  • Karla A. Henderson
  • Barbara E. Ainsworth


health promotion, American Indians, women, attitudes, meanings, constraints, enjoyment


The relationships among physical activity, leisure, and health as well as other dimensions like nutrition and environmental conditions, have implications for everyone’s quality of life. The purpose of this paper was to explore the attitudes and benefits, constraints, and meanings of leisure-time physical activity as perceived by a group of older American Indian women. Health promotion models have been developed to explain involvement in physical activity. None of these models, however, has examined specifically the role that enjoyment plays in physical activity involvement. Therefore, in this study the catalyst for physical involvement was examined related to the psychological effects of the intrinsic rewards of physical activity generally associated with leisure. Using in-depth interviews from 26 American Indian women representing three tribes in the United States, we explored and analyzed how leisure and health might be connected, and examined how the perceived enjoyment of physical activity resulted in physical and mental health. An enjoyment model of physical activity was proposed based on the data. The model illustrated how enjoyment may be a critical factor in mitigating constraints to physical activity and leading to healthy individuals, families, and communities. Further, involvement in physical activity led to more activity and better health, enabling an individual to enjoy life more. For American Indian women, aspects of enjoyment provided harmony and balance that also reinforced a higher quality of family and community life. The enjoyment model was also compared to existing health promotion models. Although more research is needed, the results from this exploratory study suggested that linking enjoyment and leisure to physical activity may be an important way to encourage physical activity participation among American Indian women as well as among other ethnic groups. The implications of enjoyment related to social support and community involvement could provide further ways to encourage people to be more active leading to healthier individuals, families, and communities. One way to promote leisure-time physical activity among these American Indian women may be to suggest that activity done for one’s personal enjoyment might also influence the enjoyment of others, including family, tribe, and the larger community. The value of being healthy as a protective factor for the entire Indian community seemed important to consider. A connection between leisure and health may be manifested through involvement in enjoyable physical activity that has physical, emotional, and social outcomes.





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