Beyond behavioural intentions: Planning mediates between intentions and physical activity

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Objectives: Health-behaviour change is not predicted well by behavioural intentions alone. Action planning and coping planning are two self-regulatory strategies that may help bridge the gap between intentions and behaviour. Action planning comprises the when, where and how of implementing a behaviour. Coping planning involves the anticipation of barriers and ways to overcome them. The study examines whether the inclusion of these two planning constructs would improve the overall prediction of physical activity. The main research question is which kind of planning would be beneficial for the initiation of behaviour and which one for its maintenance. Moreover, it is examined whether intentions moderate the planning–behaviour relationship. Methods: A 5-week longitudinal on-line study was conducted with 354 participants. Differences in prediction patterns between formerly active and formerly inactive individuals were compared using multigroup structural equation modelling. Moderating effects of intentions were tested by means of latent interactions. Results: Inclusion of the two planning factors accounted for substantially more behaviour variance than intention alone did. Coping planning mediated the intention–behaviour relationship only in formerly active, but not in formerly inactive participants. Moreover, intentions moderated the effects of both types of planning on behaviour. Conclusions: Action planning appears to predict behaviour only when intentions are high. For actors, coping planning represents a critical self-regulation strategy to maintain their physical activity levels.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Journal Article

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