Exercise habit formation in new gym members: a longitudinal study

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

References

  1. Aarts, H., Paulussen, T., & Schaalma, H. (1997). Physical exercise habit: On the conceptualization and formation of habitual health behaviours. Health Education Research, 12, 363–374.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179–211. doi:10.1016/0749-5978(91)90020-t

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Akobeng, A. K. (2007). Understanding diagnostic tests 3: Receiver operating characteristic curves. Acta Paediatrica, International Journal of Paediatrics, 96, 644–647.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Almeida, F. A., Smith-Ray, R. L., van den Berg, R., Schriener, P., Gonzales, M., Onda, P., & Estabrooks, P. A. (2005). Utilizing a simple stimulus control strategy to increase physician referrals for physical activity promotion. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 27, 505.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Bargh, J. A. (1994). The four horsemen of automaticity: Awareness, Intention, Efficiency, and Control in Social Cognition. In R. S. Wyei Jr & T. K. Srull (Eds.), Handbook of social cognition (2nd ed., Vol. 1, pp. 1–40). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Bland, J. M., & Altman, D. G. (1998). Statistics notes: Survival probabilities (the Kaplan–Meier method). British Medical Journal, 317, 1572.

    CAS  PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Calitri, R., Lowe, R., Eves, F. F., & Bennett, P. (2009). Associations between visual attention, implicit and explicit attitude and behaviour for physical activity. Psychology & health, 24, 1105–1123.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology (CSEP). (2012). Canadian physical activity guidelines and Canadian sedentary behaviour guidelines. http://www.csep.ca/english/view.asp?x=804.

  9. Colley, R. C., Garriguet, D., Janssen, I., Craig, C. L., Clarke, J., & Tremblay, M. S. (2011). Physical activity of canadian adults: Accelerometer results from the 2007 to 2009 canadian health measures survey. Health Reports, 22, 7–14.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Conroy, D. E., Hyde, A. L., Doerksen, S. E., & Ribeiro, N. F. (2010). Implicit attitudes and explicit motivation prospectively predict physical activity. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 39, 112–118.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Courneya, K. S. (1994). Predicting repeated behavior from intention: The issue of scale correspondence. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24, 580–594. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.1994.tb00601.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Courneya, K. S., & McAuley, E. (1994). Factors affecting the intention-physical activity relationship: Intention versus expectation and scale correspondence. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 65, 280–285.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Custers, R., & Aarts, H. (2005). Positive affect as implicit motivator: On the nonconscious operation of behavioral goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 129–142.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Ekkekakis, P., Hargreaves, E. A., & Parfitt, G. (2013). Invited guest editorial: Envisioning the next fifty years of research on the exercise-affect relationship. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 14, 751–758.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Evans, J. S. B. T. (2008). Dual-processing accounts of reasoning, judgment, and social cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 255–278.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Field, A. P. (2009). Discovering statistics using SPSS (3rd ed.). London: Sage publications.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Fischer, J. E., Bachmann, L. M., & Jaeschke, R. (2003). A readers’ guide to the interpretation of diagnostic test properties: Clinical example of sepsis. Intensive Care Medicine, 29, 1043–1051.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Garber, C. E., Blissmer, B., Deschenes, M. R., Franklin, B. A., Lamonte, M. J., Lee, I. M., & Swain, D. P. (2011). Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: Guidance for prescribing exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 43, 1334–1359.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Gardner, B. (2012). Habit as automaticity, not frequency. European Health Psychologist, 14, 32–36.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Gardner, B. (2014). A review and analysis of the use of ‘habit’ in understanding, predicting and influencing health-related behaviour. Health Psychology Review. doi:10.1080/17437199.2013.876238.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. Gardner, B., Abraham, C., Lally, P., & de Bruijn, G. J. (2012). Towards parsimony in habit measurement: Testing the convergent and predictive validity of an automaticity subscale of the Self-Report Habit Index. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 9, 102.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Gardner, B., De Bruijn, G. J., & Lally, P. (2011). A systematic review and meta-analysis of applications of the self-report habit index to nutrition and physical activity behaviours. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 42, 174–187.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Gardner, B., & Tang, V. (2013). Reflecting on non-reflective action: An exploratory think-aloud study of self-report habit measures. British Journal of Health Psychology, 19(2), 258–273.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Godin, G., Jobin, J., & Bouillon, J. (1986a). Assessment of leisure time exercise behavior by self-report: A concurrent validity study. Evaluation De L’Exercise Physique Pendant Les Loisirs, D’Apres Les Indications Fournies Par Les Interesses: une Eude De Concordance, 77, 359–362.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. Godin, G., Shephard, R. J., & Colantonio, A. (1986b). The cognitive profile of those who intend to exercise but do not. Public Health Reports, 101, 521–526.

    CAS  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. Greenhouse, J. B., Stangl, D., & Bromberg, J. (1989). An introduction to survival analysis: Statistical methods for analysis of clinical trial data. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 57, 536–544.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Greiner, M., Pfeiffer, D., & Smith, R. D. (2000). Principles and practical application of the receiver-operating characteristic analysis for diagnostic tests. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 45, 23–41.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Grove, & Zillich. (2003). Conceptualisation and measurement of habitual exercise. In Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Australian Psychological Society (pp. 88–92). Melbourne: Australian Psychological Society.

  29. Hagger, M. S. (2010). Health psychology review: Advancing theory and research in health psychology and behavioural medicine. Health Psychology Review, 4, 1–5.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Hall, P. A., & Fong, G. T. (2007). Temporal self-regulation theory: A model for individual health behavior. Health Psychology Review, 1, 6–52.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Head, K. J., & Noar, S. M. (2014). Facilitating progress in health behaviour theory development and modification: The reasoned action approach as a case study. Health Psychology Review, 8, 34–52.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Hyde, A. L., Doerksen, S. E., Ribeiro, N. F., & Conroy, D. E. (2010). The independence of implicit and explicit attitudes toward physical activity: Introspective access and attitudinal concordance. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 11, 387–393.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. IBM. (2011). IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 20.0. Armonk, NY: IBM Corp.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Kasof, J. (2002). Indoor lighting preferences and bulimic behavior: An individual differences approach. Personality and Individual Differences, 32, 383–400.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Kaushal, N., & Rhodes, R. E. (2014). Exploring personality and physical environment as predictors of exercise action control. In Psychology of Extraversion Perspectives in Psychology Research (pp. 91–105). New. York, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

  36. Kraemer, H. C., Offord, D. R., Jensen, P. S., Kazdin, A. E., Kessler, R. C., & Kupfer, D. J. (1999). Measuring the potency of risk factors for clinical or policy significance. Psychological Methods, 4, 257–271.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Lally, P., & Gardner, B. (2013). Promoting habit formation. Health Psychology Review, 7, S137–S158.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Lally, P., Van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W., & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 998–1009.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Linke, S. E., Robinson, C. J., & Pekmezi, D. (2014). Applying psychological theories to promote healthy lifestyles. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 8, 4–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Lox, C. L., & Rudolph, D. L. (1994). The Subjective Exercise Experiences Scale (SEES): Factorial validity and effects of acute exercise. Journal of Social Behavior & Personality, 9, 837–844.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Luke, D. A., & Homan, S. M. (1998). Time and change: Using survival analysis in clinical assessment and treatment evaluation. Psychological Assessment, 10, 360–378.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Maddux, J. E. (1997). Habit, health, and happiness. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 19, 331–346.

    Google Scholar 

  43. McAuley, E., & Courneya, K. S. (1994). The subjective exercise experiences scale (SEES): Development and preliminary evaluation. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 16, 163–177.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Moudon, A. V., Lee, C., Cheadle, A. D., Garvin, C., Johnson, D. B., Schmid, T. L., & Weathers, R. D. (2007). Attributes of environments supporting walking. American Journal of Health Promotion, 21, 448–459.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  45. NIH. (2011). National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/bmi_tbl.pdf. Retrieved July 24, 2014.

  46. Orbell, S., & Verplanken, B. (2010). The automatic component of habit in health behavior: Habit as cue-contingent automaticity. Health Psychology, 29, 374–383.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Ouellette, J. A., & Wood, W. (1998). Habit and intention in everyday life: The multiple processes by which past behavior predicts future behavior. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 54–74.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Rhodes, R. E. (2006). The built-in environment: The role of personality and physical activity. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 34, 83–88.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Rhodes, R. E. (2014a). Adding depth to the next generation of physical activity models. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 42, 43–44.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Rhodes, R. E. (2014b). Will the new theories (and theoreticians!) please stand up? A commentary on Sniehotta, Presseau and Araújo-Soares. Health Psychology Review. doi:10.1080/17437199.2014.882739.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Rhodes, R. E., Blanchard, C. M., & Matheson, D. H. (2006a). A multicomponent model of the theory of planned behaviour. British Journal of Health Psychology, 11, 119.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Rhodes, R. E., Courneya, K. S., Blanchard, C. M., & Plotnikoff, R. C. (2007). Prediction of leisure-time walking: An integration of social cognitive, perceived environmental, and personality factors. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 4, 51. doi:10.1186/1479-5868-4-51.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Rhodes, R. E., & De Bruijn, G. J. (2010). Automatic and motivational correlates of physical activity: Does intensity moderate the relationship? Behavioral Medicine, 36, 44–52.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Rhodes, R. E., & De Bruijn, G. J. (2013). What predicts intention-behavior discordance? A review of the action control framework. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 41, 201–207.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Rhodes, R. E., Fiala, B., & Conner, M. (2009). A review and meta-analysis of affective judgments and physical activity in adult populations. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 38, 180–204.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Rhodes, R. E., Matheson, D. H., & Blanchard, C. M. (2006b). Beyond scale correspondence: A comparison of continuous open scaling and fixed graded scaling when using social cognitive constructs in the exercise domain. Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science, 10, 13–39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Rhodes, R. E., & Nasuti, G. (2011). Trends and changes in research on the psychology of physical activity across 20 years: A quantitative analysis of 10 journals. Preventive Medicine, 53, 17–23.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Rhodes, R. E., & Nigg, C. R. (2011). Advancing physical activity theory: A review and future directions. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 39, 113–119.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Rogers, W. (1974). Cognitive and physiological processes in fear appeals and attitude change: A revised theory of protection motivation. In J. T. Cacioppo & R. E. Petty (Eds.), Social psychophysiology (pp. 153–176). New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Rosenstock, I. (1974). The health belief model and preventive health behavior. Health Education Monographs, 2, 354–386.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Rothman, A. J., Sheeran, P., & Wood, W. (2009). Reflective and automatic processes in the initiation and maintenance of dietary change. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 38, S4–S17.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Salmon, J., Crawford, D., Owen, N., Bauman, A., & Sallis, J. F. (2003). Physical activity and sedentary behavior: A population-based study of barriers, enjoyment, and preference. Health Psychology, 22, 178–188. doi:10.1037/0278-6133.22.2.178

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Sentyrz, S. M., & Bushman, B. J. (1998). Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the thinnest one of all? Effects of self-awareness on consumption of full-fat, reduced-fat, and no-fat products. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83, 944–949.

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Sheeran, P., Gollwitzer, P. M., & Bargh, J. A. (2013). Nonconscious processes and health. Health Psychology, 32, 460–473.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Shek, D. T. L., & Ma, C. M. S. (2011). Longitudinal data analyses using linear mixed models in SPSS: Concepts, procedures and illustrations. TheScientificWorldJournal, 11, 42–76.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Skinner, B. F. (1954). Science and human behavior. New York: MacMillian.

    Google Scholar 

  67. Sniehotta, F. F., Presseau, J., & Araújo-Soares, V. (2014). Time to retire the theory of planned behaviour. Health Psychology Review, 8, 1–7.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  68. Triandis, H. C. (1977). Interpersonal behavior. Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.

    Google Scholar 

  69. Troiano, R. P., Berrigan, D., Dodd, K. W., Mâsse, L. C., Tilert, T., & McDowell, M. (2008). Physical activity in the United States measured by accelerometer. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 40, 181–188.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Verplanken, B., & Aarts, H. (1999). Habit, attitude, and planned behaviour: Is habit an empty construct or an interesting case of goal-directed automaticity? European Review of Social Psychology, 10, 101–134.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. Verplanken, B., Aarts, H., & Van Knippenberg, A. (1997). Habit, information acquisition, and the process of making travel mode choices. European Journal of Social Psychology, 27, 539–560.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  72. Verplanken, B., & Melkevik, O. (2008). Predicting habit: The case of physical exercise. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 9, 15–26.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  73. Verplanken, B., & Orbell, S. (2003). Reflections on past behavior: a self-report index of habit strength. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 33, 1313–1330.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  74. West, R. (2006). Theory of addiction. Oxford: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  75. West, B. T. (2009). Analyzing longitudinal data with the linear mixed models procedure in SPSS. Evaluation and the Health Professions, 32, 207–228.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  76. WHO. (2015). Physical Activity from http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/pa/en/. Retrieved March 10, 2015.

  77. Wiedemann, A. U., Gardner, B., Knoll, N., & Burkert, S. (2014). Intrinsic rewards, fruit and vegetable consumption, and habit strength: A three-wave study testing the associative-cybernetic model. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 6, 119–134.

    Google Scholar 

  78. Williams, D. M., & Evans, D. R. (2014). Current emotion research in health behavior science. Emotion Review, 6, 277–287.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  79. Wood, W., & Neal, D. T. (2009). The habitual consumer. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 19, 579–592.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  80. Wood, W., Quinn, J. M., & Kashy, D. A. (2002). Habits in everyday life: Thought, emotion, and action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 1281–1297.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  81. Warburton, D. E., Katzmarzyk, P. T., Rhodes, R. E., & Shephard, R. J. (2007). Evidence-informed physical activity guidelines for Canadian adults. Canadian journal of public health, 98, S16–S68.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  82. Zajonc, R. B. (1980). Feeling and thinking: Preferences need no inferences. American Psychologist, 35, 151–175.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

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.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Navin Kaushal.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

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

Download citation

Keywords

  • Habit
  • Dual Process
  • Exercise
  • MVPA
  • Longitudinal