Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Physical Education

First Advisor

Linda Nilges-Charles


Making lifestyle changes has been found to be effective in controlling hypertension. Positive psychology may provide alternatives to existing health behavior change approaches. Appreciative Education (AE), a positive psychology approach, was applied to an existing hypertension control intervention, Lifestyle University (LU), and compared to the Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) approach, in a segment of the existing intervention. This study used quasi-experimental, mixed methods pre/post-test, repeated measures design. Two-groups of community-dwelling adults, aged 50+, control SCT (n= 60), and experimental AE (n=33), were compared using the LU intervention. Seven dependent variables were measured at pre-test, post-test 1 and post-test 2. Repeated measures ANOVA demonstrated the AE intervention to be more effective than the SCT intervention in increasing self-selected (p=0.0002) and fast gait (p=0.002) speed. Pearson correlation revealed an inverse relationship between systolic blood pressure and International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) scores (rs = -0.40, p = 0.008). The AE group was not more effective than the SCT group in reducing mean systolic and diastolic blood pressure, BMI, physical activity (IPAQ), and fruit and vegetable consumption (EATS). In the grounded theory qualitative analysis of interview data, both groups shared four health behavior themes: accountability, consumption changes, learning aids and activities, and other behavior changes. Two of the three perception themes, peer influence (SCT) and health relationships (AE), reflected the differences between the two approaches while the enjoyment theme emerged from both groups. Results of this study suggest future interventions designed from the ground up, using the AE approach, may be an effective health behavior change alternative.


© 2015, Mary Katherine Benya