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Health Psychol. 1999 Nov;18(6):655-9.

The rate of sedentary activities determines the reinforcing value of physical activity.

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Department of Psychology, San Diego State University, USA.


In this study, the authors examined whether the reinforcing efficacy of sedentary behaviors was related to their base rates. Base rates of 3 sedentary and 1 physical activity were determined for 40 sedentary adults. Participants were randomized to groups in which either high-rate, moderate-rate, low-rate, or no sedentary activity was contingent on being physically active. Noncontingent sedentary activities remained freely available. Contingent high- or moderate-rate sedentary activities increased physical activity, whereas no increases in physical activity were observed for contingent low-rate or control conditions. Thus, sedentary behaviors can be used to reinforce physical activity, their reinforcing efficacy depends in part on their base rates, and they are not completely substitutable.

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