Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Phillip J. Brantley


A sedentary lifestyle is prevalent in the United States and is associated with poor health outcomes (Blair et al., 1989). While regular exercise has been shown to have numerous physical and mental health benefits, much of the population does not perform physical activity at a level necessary to achieve significant health benefits. Primary care settings have become increasingly targeted areas for physician-based exercise counseling. One popular theoretical model of exercise adoption is the transtheoretical model of exercise behavior (Prochaska & Marcus, 1994) which proposes that individuals progress through stages of exercise behavior. Researchers have explored constructs affecting movement through the stages of exercise behavior, such as decisional balance and self-efficacy (e.g. Marcus & Owen, 1992). However, connections between life events and the transtheoretical model for exercise behavior have not previously been examined in the literature. Recent research has shown the perception of stressful life events, particularly minor stressors, may mediate exercise behavior (Stetson et al., 1997). Minor stressors can lead to decreased ability to engage in exercise behavior in three ways: hindered performance of positive health behaviors such as exercise, increased perception of exercise as a stressor, and increased engagement in unhealthy coping behaviors (overeating, smoking, alcohol abuse, etc.). While minor life events may act as barriers to exercise behavior, no study has specifically examined their effect on exercise stage of change. In addition, the exercise stages of change model has not been validated among a low-income, primary care population. The current study examined cross-sectional and longitudinal relationships between major and minor life events and transtheoretical constructs for exercise behavior. This sample included predominantly low-income, primary care patients from across the state of Louisiana. Results provided some support for the use of the transtheoretical model among this population, as demonstrated by the replication of some of the relationship patterns between transtheoretical variables. While life events were positively correlated with some categories of physical activity, they failed to account for significant variance in stage movement across time. Shortcomings and strengths of the present study are discussed, and suggestions are made for future research.