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Positive Psychology in Practice: Promoting Human Flourishing in Work, Health, Education, and Everyday Life, 2nd Edition by Stephen Joseph

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Chapter 12Putting Positive Psychology Into Motion Through Physical Activity

GUY FAULKNER, KATE HEFFERON AND NANETTE MUTRIE

Seligman (2002) suggested that the goal of positive psychology is to “learn how to build the qualities that help individuals and communities not just endure and survive but also flourish” (p. 8). We believe that physical activity is one behavior that will help both individuals and communities survive and flourish. At an individual level, we will show that physical activity has the capacity to prevent mental illness, to foster positive emotions, to buffer individuals against the stresses of life, and to facilitate thriving after adversity. At a community level, we suggest that a community in which physical activity is seen as the social norm may be healthier and have greater social capital. Indeed, we would argue that physical activity is a “stellar” positive psychological intervention (PPI; Hefferon & Mutrie, 2012) as it helps to produce positive emotions, engagement, and accomplishment, as well as preventing and reducing more negative experiences and states (e.g., stress, depression).

We use physical activity (PA) as a term that refers to any movement of the body that results in energy expenditure above that of resting level (Caspersen, Powell, & Christenson, 1985). Exercise is often (incorrectly) used interchangeably with PA, but this term refers to a subset of PA in which the activity is structured, often supervised, and undertaken with the aim of maintaining ...

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