Restricted (Penn State Only)
Yang, Chih Hsiang
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 16, 2017
Committee Members:
  • David E. Conroy, Dissertation Advisor
  • David E. Conroy, Committee Chair
  • Steriani Elavsky, Committee Member
  • Michael Blair Evans, Committee Member
  • Lesley A. Ross, Outside Member
  • behavioral medicine
  • mind-body relations
  • public health promotion
  • health behavior
  • behavioral intervention
Physical activity and mindfulness training can each be health enhancing but limited efforts have been made to integrate them in research or clinical practice. Combining physical activity with mindfulness as a single intervention have potential to escalate the health effects. Practicing mindfulness during physical activity interventions may also help people to maintain their increased physical activity level, leading to a more sustainable intervention. The disproportional attention on trait mindfulness but limited focus on state mindfulness in previous studies signifies a main barrier that restricted the application for implementing mindfulness in physical activity interventions. To overcome this main obstacle, three studies in this dissertation were designed to address the barrier and advance understanding of the relation between physical activity and mindfulness. The first study involved a systematic review of peer-reviewed research articles in major academic database and Google Scholar to synthesize and identify gaps in the mindfulness-physical activity literature. Available evidence showed that physical activity and trait mindfulness were positively related, but little has been known regarding the association between physical activity and state mindfulness. Based on the lack of state mindfulness studies in the current literature, a three-level mindfulness framework (global, contextual, and situational level) was proposed to organize current research studies and available mindfulness self-report measures within each mindfulness level. This hierarchical framework that differentiated the contextual and temporal specificity of mindfulness is needed to bridge the gap in the literature. The second study applied experience sampling methods to investigate the relations between momentary time allocation in different daily activities/postures and well-being among college students (N=158). Results from multilevel analysis suggested that college students’ negative affect was associated with their daily activities/postures and mindfulness in the within-person level. When students moved more or stood more compared to sitting in their daily life, they reported lower levels of negative affect. Further, students’ situational mindfulness seemed to moderate this within-person association between momentary activities/postures and negative affect. When students were more mindful while moving, they experienced greater degrees of reduction in negative affect momentarily. The final study designed and evaluated an outdoor mindful walking program to determine its feasibility, acceptability, sustainability and preliminary efficacy in reducing negative affect among older adults. Community-dwelling older adults (N=27) attended a one-month, eight session mindful walking program and completed multiple self-report measures before, during, and after the program. Overall, participants perceived this outdoor mindful walking program to be acceptable, engaging and appealing. After the program, most of them were still willing to maintain and actually continued practicing mindful walking in their leisure time. Preliminary efficacy of the program was also identified. After the mindful walking sessions, reductions in negative affect were associated with increases in situational mindfulness among older adults. Based on the promising results, future randomized controlled trials are warranted to test the efficacy of mindful walking program among older adults. Collectively, these studies highlight the value of studying mindfulness as a time-varying construct in physical activity studies. Differentiating global mindfulness from context- or situation-specific mindfulness not only broadens our scope in understanding the relation between physical activity and mindfulness, but also provides a new avenue for future research. Each study in the current dissertation made unique contributions to the physical activity and mindfulness literature. First, this dissertation synthesized research evidence on the physical activity-mindfulness association, identified the literature gap, and provided a useful framework for further studies to close the gap. Second, this dissertation was the first experience sampling study that identified the time-varying association between momentary physical activity, mindfulness, and negative affect in daily life. Lastly, this dissertation designed an innovative and feasible mindful walking program which may inform future dissemination for reducing negative affect in older adults. In general, the within-person associations between physical activity and mindfulness established in this dissertation provided valuable implications in facilitating and developing effective behavioral intervention strategies to promote health and well-being in different populations.