Health beliefs and physical activity behavior in adults with multiple sclerosis

Susan L. Kasser, Ph.D., Maria Kosma, Ph.D.

Published Online: August 17, 2012




Understanding how health beliefs intersect with physical activity in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) is an important step in developing effective activity promotion programs.


The purpose of the study was to employ the Health Belief Model (HBM) to assess the health beliefs of adults with MS and examine the relationship between health beliefs and physical activity behavior.


Participants with MS (N = 384) completed a web-based survey assessing the following HBM constructs: perceived susceptibility and seriousness of negative health outcomes, perceived benefits and barriers to physical activity, cues to action, and self-efficacy. Self-reported physical activity was also surveyed.


Participant perceptions of susceptibility to negative health outcomes were focused more on physical conditioning and functioning rather than on general health conditions. The most important HBM predictors of physical activity were self-efficacy and perceived benefits of exercise. Even when controlling for the significant effects of disability level on physical activity, self-efficacy and perceived benefits remained robust exercise predictors.


Individuals with MS believe they can benefit from physical activity and remain healthy even in the context of their disease. They also acknowledge the fact that their disability levels limit their exercise capabilities. Given that self-efficacy and perceived benefits of activity are important determinants of physical activity, health promotion efforts should be directed at these modifiable factors.