Original Article

Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 65-76

First online:

Using Action Planning to Promote Exercise Behavior

  • Mark ConnerAffiliated withInstitute of Psychological Sciences, University of Leeds Email author 
  • , Tracy SandbergAffiliated withInstitute of Psychological Sciences, University of Leeds
  • , Paul NormanAffiliated withUniversity of Sheffield

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Action planning promotes exercise behavior and mediates intention–behavior relationships.


The aim of this study is to provide correlational and experimental tests of action planning as mediator of intention–exercise behavior relationships controlling for Theory of Planned Behavior variables and past behavior.


In study 1 (N = 777), young adults completed questionnaires assessing Theory of Planned Behavior variables, past behavior, and planning in relation to exercise and 2 weeks later reported exercise behavior. In study 2 (N = 356), young adults were randomly allocated to complete one of two questionnaires and 2 weeks later reported exercise behavior. Both questionnaires contained similar measures to study 1 (Theory of Planned Behavior variables, past behavior in relation to exercise), but one also contained an exercise planning measure.


Planning partially mediated intention–behavior relationships and intentions showed a moderated mediation effect: stronger intention–planning–behavior relationships when intentions were strong (study 1). Exercise behavior was higher in planning compared to no planning group, and this difference was greater when intentions were strong (study 2).


Action planning mediates intention–exercise behavior relationships, particularly when exercise intentions are strong. Interventions promoting exercise behavior should jointly target intentions and planning.


Theory of Planned Behavior Action planning Exercise Health behavior Mere measurement