Physical Activity and Perceived Health: Can Time Diary Measures of Momentary Well-Being Inform the Association?

Sandra L. Hofferth, Yoonjoo Lee, Sarah M. Flood, Deborah Carr

physical activity, health, well-being, momentary emotion, time diaries

The association between physical activity and health is well documented, yet prior research has largely ignored the context of physical activity, including its specific type and the emotions experienced while engaged in that activity. This study used interview-based time diary data on 24,016 individuals who participated in the American Time Use Survey well-being modules in 2010, 2012, and 2013 to examine the associations between sedentary and moderately vigorous activities and self-reported health, and the extent to which momentary well-being modifies that association. Respondents who engaged in housework, leisure, or play with children reported better health whereas those who engaged in sedentary activity reported worse self-rated health. Respondents who spent more time in housework reported better health, but this was not the case for leisure or playing with children. Greater positive mood and fewer somatic symptoms while engaged in activity were associated with better self-rated health, with more consistent associations for symptoms than mood. Respondent reports of momentary well-being did not explain the link between activities and perceived or actual health.