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Closing the intention-behavior gap in physical activity

the moderating effect of individual differences in the valuation of physical effort




Exercise, motivation, Personality, perceived exertion


Objective. In most psychological models, intention is viewed as a proximal antecedent of physical activity. However, despite its importance, intention often fails to translate into actual behaviors. The Theory of Effort Minimization in Physical Activity (TEMPA) has suggested that the valuation of physical effort may explain the intention-behavior gap. The purpose of this study was to examine whether individual differences in approach and avoidance tendencies toward physical effort moderate the strength of the association between intention and action.

Methods. Data were collected from 401 Canadian participants using two online surveys separated by one week. Intention strength and individual differences in the tendencies to approach and avoid physical effort were first assessed. Moderate and vigorous physical activity were self-reported seven days later.

Results. Linear regression models showed that approach tendencies (b = .11, p = .007), avoidance tendencies (b = -.11, p = .005) moderated the association between the intention to be physically active and physical activity. As expected, the association between intention and physical activity was stronger as approach tendencies toward physical effort increased, but weaker as avoidance tendencies increased. Results of secondary analyses suggested that the moderating effect of approach and avoidance tendencies was observed only for vigorous physical activity, but not for moderate physical activity.

Conclusion. Consistent with TEMPA, this study suggests that individual differences in the valuation of physical effort represent a moderator of the intention-behavior gap in physical activity. Incorporating these individual differences into physical activity promotion may help to close the intention-behavior gap.


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