Physical activity, subjective health, and emotions: patterns in rehabilitation patients up to 8 years

  • S.L. Tan
  • S. Lippke
  • Y. Duan


Background: To improve workability in employees, it is more than just physical health but also the presence of mental health and well-being. Subjective health, positive affect, and physical activity have been examined before, yet, there is a lack of research in how these elements interrelate over a longer period, in clinical samples from medical rehabilitation. Methods: A longitudinal design was implemented within 8 years. A total of 640 medical rehabilitation patients participated paper-pencil questionnaires at baseline, after being discharged from a rehabilitation in which physical activity was recommended. Follow-up measurements were carried out after 6 months, after 3 years, and after 8 years. Findings: Linear Mixed Models was used to examine the changes of human behaviours over time. Over time, participants who were physically active, and who showed more positive affect and less negative affect, were more likely to develop better subjective health. Although subjective health decreased after a peak up to 8 years after discharged (M=2.80, SE=0.05, p<.05), it remained better compared to baseline (M=2.64, SE=0.04, p<.05). Moreover, the analysis showed that for those who are feeling more calm and peaceful (β=0.14, SE=0.02, p<.01), feeling less low and downhearted (β=-0.15, SE=0.02, p<.01), and less physically inactive (β=-0.16, SE=0.04, p<.01), predicted greater subjective health. Discussion: In clarifying the paradigm of subjective well-being, it is not only regular positive affect (feeling more calm and peaceful) and irregular negative affect (feeling less low and downhearted), also with the involvement of health behaviour of physical activity, altogether enhanced one’s subjective health over time.
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