Self-compassion, a kind and protective way of relating to oneself, has been associated with both the self-regulation of, and engagement in many health behaviours. Yet, the limited research examining self-compassion and physical activity is mixed, warranting further investigation. Moreover, the relationship between self-compassion, self-regulation, and health suggests that self-compassionate people should experience lower rates of cardiovascular disease risk and frailty. However, little is known about the relationship between self-compassion and these health outcomes.
In this cross-sectional study, we examined the relationship between self-compassion, physical activity, cardiovascular disease risk, and frailty, among a sample of 991 community-dwelling females in Canada (Mage = 64.5 (SD = 6.1) years; 99% women, 1% non-binary) who were members of the WARM Hearts cohort (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03938155). Measures included the 26-Item Self-Compassion Scale, the International Physical Activity Questionnaire, the Framingham 10-Year Cardiovascular Risk Score (adjusted for family history), and a 42-item Frailty Index.
Hierarchical regression analyses controlling for age showed no relationship between self-compassion and weekly minutes of walking, moderate, or vigorous physical activity, or 10-year cardiovascular risk. However, self-compassion was significantly and negatively associated with frailty (β = -0.223, SE = 0.003, p < .001, 95% CI (-.030, -.017). This finding is relevant given the strong association between frailty and health outcomes. Further research is needed to determine whether self-compassion has a protective role against frailty. Additionally, since self-compassion and physical activity were not associated, future research should determine which health behaviours mediate the association between self-compassion and frailty.