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Am J Prev Med. 1998 Nov;15(4):257-65.

Integrating theoretical approaches to promote physical activity.

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Department of Psychology, University at Buffalo, New York 14260-4110, USA.



Research on the promotion of physical activity has been based on a variety of conceptual models. These models generally target one level of analysis, such as the individual, community, or the environment, and differ in their relative contact with basic or applied science. There have been limited attempts to develop approaches that target multiple levels of analysis and can stimulate basic and applied research.


Theoretical integration in a multidiscliplinary field such as promotion of physical activity should take into account that social, behavioral, and biomedical colleagues may use different explanatory models, and use different approaches to the development of scientific knowledge. This essay argues for the development of integration of theory across multiple domains that can incorporate methods and findings of basic and applied scientists, and that uses language and methods common to social, behavioral, and biomedical scientists.


Behavioral choice theory is presented as an example of one theoretical approach that bridges different approaches to physical activity intervention, and that can stimulate both basic and applied research on physical activity. Behavioral research on choice was discussed in relationship to basic research, human laboratory research, and community and clinical research.


Implications of behavioral choice theory for community and environmental change was discussed. The essay ends with ideas for future directions in integration of theory for physical activity research.

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