Burstiness and Stochasticity in the Malleability of Physical Activity

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Vincent Berardi Chapman University

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David Pincus Chapman University

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Evan Walker Chapman University

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Marc A. Adams Arizona State University

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This study examined whether patterns of self-organization in physical activity (PA) predicted long-term success in a yearlong PA intervention. Increased moderate to vigorous PA (MVPA) was targeted in insufficiently active adults (N = 512) via goal setting and financial reinforcement. The degree to which inverse power law distributions, which are reflective of self-organization, summarized (a) daily MVPA and (b) time elapsed between meeting daily goals (goal attainment interresponse times) was calculated. Goal attainment interresponse times were also used to calculate burstiness, the degree to which meeting daily goals clustered in time. Inverse power laws accurately summarized interresponse times, but not daily MVPA. For participants with higher levels of MVPA early in the study, burstiness in reaching goals was associated with long-term resistance to intervention, while stochasticity in meeting goals predicted receptiveness to intervention. These results suggest that burstiness may measure self-organizing resistance to change, while PA stochasticity could be a precondition for behavioral malleability.

Berardi and Pincus are with the Dept. of Psychology, Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences, and Walker, the Dept. of Computational and Data Sciences, Chapman University, Orange, CA, USA. Adams is with the College of Health Solutions, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA.

Berardi (berardi@chapman.edu) is corresponding author.
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