Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 347–363 | Cite as

Promoting physical activity with goal-oriented mental imagery: a randomized controlled trial

  • Carina K. Y. ChanEmail author
  • Linda D. Cameron


Self-regulation theory and research suggests that different types of mental imagery can promote goal-directed behaviors. The present study was designed to compare the efficacy of approach imagery (attainment of desired goal states) and process imagery (steps for enacting behavior) in promoting physical activity among inactive individuals. A randomized controlled trial was conducted with 182 inactive adults who received one of four interventions for generating mental images related to physical activity over a 4-week period, with Approach Imagery (approach versus neutral) and Process Imagery (process versus no process) as the intervention strategies. Participants received imagery training and practiced daily. Repeated measures ANOVAs revealed that Approach Imagery: (1) increased approach motivations for physical activity at Week 4; (2) induced greater intentions post-session, which subsequently induced more action planning at Week 4; (3) enhanced action planning when combined with process images at post-session and Week 1; and (4) facilitated more physical activity at Week 4 via action planning. These findings suggest that inducing approach orientation via mental imagery may be a convenient and low-cost technique to promote physical activity among inactive individuals.


Self-regulation theory Randomized controlled trial Mental imagery Physical activity intervention Approach orientation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health SciencesMonash University (Sunway Campus)Selangor Darul EhsanMalaysia
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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