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The use of implementation intentions and the decision balance sheet in promoting exercise behaviour

By Andrew Prestwich, Rebecca Lawton and Mark Conner


Although increasing exercise and fitness has often been associated with positive health outcomes, infrequent exercise participation has remained a problem. Since two distinct motivational and volitional phases to goal pursuit have been proposed (Heckhausen, 1991; Gollwitzer, 1993), a combined motivational (decision balance sheet, DBS) and volitional (implementation intentions) intervention was predicted to be more effective in increasing exercise behaviour than a control or either strategy alone. A total of 86 students were randomly assigned to one of the four conditions, and were all asked to try to exercise two more times a week than they currently did, over a four week period. Their fitness levels were measured through fitness tests conducted pre and post-intervention. A priori orthogonal contrasts indicated that the experimental strategies produced a greater increase in exercise frequency and total time spent exercising per week and accordingly showed greater fitness improvements than the control group. Moreover, the volitional groups taken together produced greater increase in time spent exercising and a marginally greater improvement in frequency than the DBS alone. The combined intervention led to improvements in fitness and marginal increases in frequency over the implementation intention alone group. It is proposed that for the combined group the DBS may have aided recall of the implementation intention or increased commitment to it, as remembering and then acting on the plan, in the stated place and time, mediated the implementation intention-behaviour relationship. The combined intervention produced the greatest fitness improvements, indicating that this strategy can lead to important health benefits

Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Year: 2003
OAI identifier:

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