Increasing Physical Activity Through Principles of Habit Formation in New Gym Members: a Randomized Controlled Trial
The promotion of physical activity (PA) is paramount to public health, yet interventions in the social cognitive tradition have yielded negligible improvements. The limited progression may be due to an overreliance on intention as the proximal determinant of behavior and a lack of consideration of implicit/automatic processes. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of a habit formation intervention on PA over 8 weeks in a two-arm parallel design, randomized controlled trial.
Participants (n = 94) were new gym members with the intention to engage in PA but below international PA guidelines at baseline, who were randomized into a control or habit experimental group. The experimental group attended a workshop (at baseline) and received a follow-up booster phone call at week 4. The primary outcome of the study was minutes of moderate-vigorous intensity PA (MVPA) at week 8. The secondary outcome was a manipulation check to determine if the experimental group effectively incorporated habit-building constructs (cues and practice consistency).
The experimental group showed a significant increase in MVPA after 8 weeks in both accelerometry (d = 0.39, p = .04) and self-report (d = 0.53, p = .01) compared with the control group. The experimental group also showed an increase in use of cues (d = 0.56, p < .001) and practice consistency (d = 0.40, p = .01) at week 8.
The results contribute to the initial validity of increasing PA through a focus on preparation cues and practice consistency. Future research should replicate these findings and extend the duration of assessment to evaluate whether PA changes are sustained.
RegisteredTrial Number NCT02785107
KeywordsHabit Automaticity Exercise MVPA RCT
- 2.Garber, C.E., et al., 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, 2011. 43(7): p. 1334–1359.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- 3.Team LS. Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet—England, 2015. 2015: Health and Social Care Information Centre.Google Scholar
- 4.Colley RC, et al. Physical activity of Canadian adults: accelerometer results from the 2007 to 2009 Canadian health measures survey. Health Reports, 2011; 22(1).Google Scholar
- 7.Health CC. The Community Guide. 2016; Available from: http://www.thecommunityguide.org/pa/behavioral-social/index.html.
- 12.Rogers, W., 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. 1974.Google Scholar
- 14.Hagger, M.S., N.L.D. Chatzisarantis, and S.J.H. Biddle, A meta-analytic review of the theories of reasoned action and planned behavior in physical activity: predictive validity and the contribution of additional variables. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 2002. 24(1): p. 3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- 19.Sheeran, P., Intention-behaviour relations: a conceptual and empirical review. European review of social psychology, ed. M.H.W. Stroebe. 2002: Chichester: John Wiley.Google Scholar
- 20.Rhodes RE, Yao CA. Models accounting for intention-behavior discordance in the physical activity domain: a user’s guide, content overview, and review of current evidence. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2015. 12(1).Google Scholar
- 26.Rhodes, R.E. and C. Lim, Understanding action control of dog walking. Ann. Behav. Med., 2016. 50 (Suppl 1):S1-S335.Google Scholar
- 28.Evans JSBT. Dual-processing accounts of reasoning, judgment, and social cognition. 2008; 255–278.Google Scholar
- 30.Wood W, Rünger D. Psychology of habit. Annual Review of Psychology. 2015. 67(1).Google Scholar
- 32.Grove, Zillich. Conceptualisation and measurement of habitual exercise. Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Australian Psychological Society. 2003, Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Australian Psychological Society (pp. 88–92). Melbourne: Australian Psychological Society.Google Scholar
- 35.Kaushal N, et al. The role of habit in different phases of exercise. British Journal of Health Psychology. 2016(In Press).Google Scholar
- 36.Rebar AL, et al. A systematic review of the effects of non-conscious regulatory processes in physical activity. Health Psychology Review. 2016: 1–86.Google Scholar
- 37.Warburton, D.E.R., et al., Validation of the PAR-Q+ and ePARmed-X+. Health & Fitness Journal of Canada., 2011. 4: p. 38–46.Google Scholar
- 50.Godin G, Jobin J, Bouillon J. 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. 1986. 77(5): 359–362.Google Scholar
- 52.Gardner B, Tang V. Reflecting on non-reflective action: an exploratory think-aloud study of self-report habit measures. British Journal of Health Psychology. 2013.Google Scholar
- 56.Field, A.P. Discovering statistics using SPSS (third edition). London: Sage publications; 2009.Google Scholar
- 57.Norman G, Streiner D Biostatistics: The Bare Essentials 2008: McGraw-Hill Europe; 3rd edition.Google Scholar
- 58.Cohen J. and Cohen, P. Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum; 1983.Google Scholar
- 64.Gardner B. A review and analysis of the use of ‘habit’ in understanding, predicting and influencing health-related behaviour. Health Psychology Review. 2014.Google Scholar
- 65.Pimm R, et al. Cue consistency associated with physical activity automaticity and behavior. Behavioral Medicine. 2015.Google Scholar
- 69.Gollwitzer PM, Sheeran P. Implementation intentions and goal achievement: a meta-analysis of effects and processes, in Advances in Experimental Social Psychology. 2006. 69–119.Google Scholar
- 70.Gupta, S.K., Intention-to-treat concept: a review. Perspectives in Clinical Research, 2011. 2(3): p. 109–112. doi:10.4103/2229-3485.83221.
- 72.Time. Top 10 Commonly Broken New Year's Resolutions. 2012; Available from: http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2040218_2040220_2040221,00.html.