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Health Psychol. 2016 Jan;35(1):69-77. doi: 10.1037/hea0000249. Epub 2015 Jul 6.

Habitual exercise instigation (vs. execution) predicts healthy adults' exercise frequency.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Iowa State University.
2
Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Habit is thought to be conducive to health behavior maintenance, because habits prompt behavior with minimal cognitive resources. The precise role of habit in determining complex behavioral sequences, such as exercise, has been underresearched. It is possible that the habit process may initiate a behavioral sequence (instigation habit) or that, after instigation, movement through the sequence is automated (execution habit). We hypothesized that exercise instigation habit can be empirically distinguished from exercise execution habit and that instigation habit strength is most predictive of future exercise and reflective of longitudinal exercise behavior change. Further, we evaluated whether patterned exercise action-that is, engaging in the same exercise actions from session to session-can be distinct from exercise execution habit.

METHOD:

Healthy adults (N = 123) rated their exercise instigation and execution habit strengths, patterned exercise actions, and exercise frequency in baseline and 1-month follow-up surveys. Participants reported exercise engagement via electronic daily diaries for 1 month. Hypotheses were tested with regression analyses and repeated-measures analyses of variance.

RESULTS:

Exercise instigation habit strength was the only unique predictor of exercise frequency. Frequency profiles (change from high to low or low to high, no change high, no change low) were associated with changes in instigation habit but not with execution habit or patterned exercise action.

CONCLUSIONS:

Results suggest that the separable components of exercise sessions may be more or less automatic, and they point to the importance of developing instigation habit for establishing frequent exercise.

PMID:
26148187
DOI:
10.1037/hea0000249
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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