Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 472–482 | Cite as

Translating good intentions into physical activity: older adults with low prospective memory ability profit from planning

  • Julia K. WolffEmail author
  • Lisa M. Warner
  • Jochen P. Ziegelmann
  • Susanne Wurm
  • Matthias Kliegel


Prospective memory (PM) is the ability to remember to perform an intended action in the future and is necessary for regular physical activity (PA). For older adults with declining PM, planning strategies may help them to act upon their intentions. This study investigates PM as a moderator in a mediation process: intention predicting PA via planning. A mediated moderation was estimated with longitudinal data of older adults (M = 70 years). Intentions (T1) predicted PA (T3) via action and coping planning (T2). PM was included as moderator on the planning-PA association. Both planning strategies were significant partial mediators (action planning: b = 0.17, 95 % CI [0.10, 0.29]; coping planning: b = 0.08, 95 % CI [0.02, 0.18]). For individuals with lower PM, the indirect effect via coping planning was stronger than with higher PM (b = 0.06, 95 % CI [0.01, 0.16]). Action planning is important for PA in old age regardless of PM performance, whereas older adults with lower PM benefitted most from coping planning. Intervention studies for older adults should consider training PM and promote planning skills.


Physical activity Prospective memory Older adults Action planning Coping planning 



We thank the German Centre of Gerontology for logistic support and a team of highly motivated student assistants for helping to conduct the study.


The PREFER study was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Grant Number 01ET1001B).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Julia K. Wolff, Lisa M. Warner, Jochen P. Ziegelmann, Susanne Wurm and Matthias Kliegel declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights and Informed consent

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of an appropriate ethics commission (German Psychological Society; DGPs-SW 02_2012) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. No animals were involved in the study. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia K. Wolff
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lisa M. Warner
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jochen P. Ziegelmann
    • 1
  • Susanne Wurm
    • 3
  • Matthias Kliegel
    • 4
  1. 1.German Centre of GerontologyBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Freie UniversitätBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-NurembergNurembergGermany
  4. 4.University of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland

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