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Exercise habit formation in new gym members: a longitudinal study


Reasoned action approaches have primarily been applied to understand exercise behaviour for the past three decades, yet emerging findings in unconscious and Dual Process research show that behavior may also be predicted by automatic processes such as habit. The purpose of this study was to: (1) investigate the behavioral requirements for exercise habit formation, (2) how Dual Process approach predicts behaviour, and (3) what predicts habit by testing a model (Lally and Gardner in Health Psychol Rev 7:S137–S158, 2013). Participants (n = 111) were new gym members who completed surveys across 12 weeks. It was found that exercising for at least four bouts per week for 6 weeks was the minimum requirement to establish an exercise habit. Dual Process analysis using Linear Mixed Models (LMM) revealed habit and intention to be parallel predictors of exercise behavior in the trajectory analysis. Finally, the habit antecedent model in LLM showed that consistency (β = .21), low behavioral complexity (β = .19), environment (β = .17) and affective judgments (β = .13) all significantly (p < .05) predicted changes in habit formation over time. Trainers should keep exercises fun and simple for new clients and focus on consistency which could lead to habit formation in nearly 6 weeks.

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We would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for providing valuable and insightful suggestions to improve this paper. We would also like to thank Alison Quinlan for her feedback on the manuscript.

Conflict of Interest

Navin Kaushal and Ryan E. Rhodes declare that they have no conflicts of interest in the research.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

The present study was approved by the Human Research Ethics Board at the University of Victoria. All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000 (5). Informed consent was obtained from all participants for being included in the study.

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Correspondence to Navin Kaushal.

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Kaushal, N., Rhodes, R.E. Exercise habit formation in new gym members: a longitudinal study. J Behav Med 38, 652–663 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-015-9640-7

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  • Habit
  • Dual Process
  • Exercise
  • MVPA
  • Longitudinal