Anxiety Sensitivity and Physical Inactivity in a National Sample of Adults with a History of Myocardial Infarction

C. Alcántara
M. Qian
L. Meli
I. Ensari
S. Ye
K. W. Davidson, Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell
K. M. Diaz


© 2020, International Society of Behavioral Medicine. Background: The psychological factors underlying physical inactivity in vulnerable cardiac adult populations remain understudied. Anxiety sensitivity, a cognitive vulnerability defined as fear of the physical, cognitive, and social consequences of anxiety, may be an important modifiable determinant of physical inactivity. We examined the association of anxiety sensitivity, and each anxiety sensitivity subscale (physical, cognitive, and social concerns), with physical inactivity in adults with a history of myocardial infarction (MI). Methods: Using cross-sectional data from a nationally representative survey of adults (N = 1417) in the USA who reported a health professional diagnosis of MI, we used weighted logistic regression models to evaluate the association between anxiety sensitivity (overall, and each subscale) and physical inactivity (self-reported exercise 0–1 day/week), with adjustment for age, gender, race, education, number of MIs, and depression. Results: Overall, 34.3% reported physical inactivity. Anxiety sensitivity was associated with greater odds of physical inactivity (OR = 1.01; 95% CI = 1.00, 1.02; p =.026). Of the subscales, only physical concerns were associated with physical inactivity (OR = 1.02; 95% CI = 1.01, 1.04; p =.008) in the final model. High vs. low fear of shortness of breath was most consistently associated with physical inactivity (OR = 1.49; 95% CI = 1.08, 2.06; p <.021). Conclusion: Anxiety sensitivity, generally, and fear of the physical sensations of anxiety (i.e., “fear of shortness of breath”), specifically, are important correlates of physical inactivity in adults with a history of MI. Future research should replicate these findings and experimentally test whether cardiac rehabilitation interventions that include an adjunctive component targeting reduction of anxiety sensitivity overall, or specific somatic symptoms, improve physical activity in this population.