Psychosocial Predictors of Physical Activity Change Among College Students in an Obesity Prevention Trial

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) is critical for maintaining a healthy weight, although little is known about psychological barriers to maintaining MVPA in at-risk groups. Identifying characteristics associated with poor MVPA maintenance in obesity prevention programs could improve participant outcomes.


Toward this end, we examined predictors of MVPA in an obesity prevention trial for college students at risk for weight gain (n = 333; 72% female, mean BMI = 23.4 kg/m2). Participants engaged in 1 of 3 weight control interventions and in 4 assessments over 12-month follow-up (ie, measured height/weight, self-reports of psychosocial characteristics, 4 days of accelerometer wear).


Multilevel modeling analyses showed that across conditions, participants decreased total MVPA minutes per week over 12 months (B = –5.48, P < .01). Baseline self-report scores for both impulsiveness and cognitive dissonance regarding engaging in unhealthy behaviors negatively predicted MVPA over time. Participants higher (vs. lower) in baseline impulsiveness (B = –6.89, P = .03) and dissonance (B = –4.10, P = .04) began the study with more MVPA minutes, but showed sharper declines over time.


Targeted MVPA-focused intervention for students who show elevated impulsiveness and cognitive dissonance may improve both MVPA and weight control outcomes for these individuals.

Arigo is with the Dept of Psychology, The University of Scranton, Scranton, PA. Rohde, Shaw, and Stice are with the Eating Disorders Research Group, Oregon Research Institute, Eugene, OR.

Arigo ( is corresponding author.