Planning and Preparatory Actions Facilitate Physical Activity Maintenance
Objective: Many people do not behave in line with their self-imposed goal to be more physically active. To bridge this intentionebehavior gap, detailed planning is regarded as being instrumental. Moreover, preparatory actions are supposed to facilitate physical activity in conjunction with planning. Thus, preparatory actions are seen as mediators between intention and behaviors. The present study examines whether intention is translated into physical activity stepwise via planning as well as via preparatory actions. Design: At three points in time, physical activity, planning, preparatory actions, and the intention to be physically active were assessed in 338 participants. Methods: By means of structural equation modeling, it was examined whether the pathway from intention to physical activity includes a mediating sequence of planning as well as preparatory actions. Results: The sequential mediation model confirmed pathways from intention to planning, from planning to preparatory behaviors, and from preparatory behaviors to follow-up physical activity, while controlling for baseline indicators. Furthermore, there was an indirect effect of intention on preparatory actions via planning, an indirect effect of planning on physical activity via preparatory actions, and an indirect effect of intention on physical activity via planning and preparatory actions thus, confirming the hypothesized sequence. Conclusions: Individuals who are motivated to be physically active are likely to make a plan, and if they do so, they are more likely to take preparatory actions, resulting in a higher chance to perform the target behavior.