Habit Formation Among Regular Exercisers at Fitness Centers: An Exploratory Study

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background:

Predictive modeling for physical activity behavior has included many different psychological components, including planning, motivation, personality, and self-efficacy. However, habit formation in exercise maintenance has not been well explored and lacks reliable measurement tools. The current study explores novel survey questions that examine behavioral components of exercise habit, including frequency, environmental cuing, and temporal constancy of behavior. We then relate these concepts to an established psychological measure of habit, the Self-Report Habit Inventory (SRHI).

Methods:

One hundred and seventy-four exercisers were surveyed at 2 private fitness clubs. A single questionnaire was administered that included the SRHI and the novel behavioral questions developed from habit formation concepts.

Results:

Habit formation was reported by many of the exercisers. Participants scoring higher on the SRHI also reported higher frequency of physical activity and a higher probability of environmental cuing. Exercise frequency did not correlate well with environmental cuing.

Conclusions:

Habit formation appears relevant to the physical activity patterns of many regular exercisers. However, wide variation in response styles was evident suggesting further development and exploration of the novel questionnaire is warranted. The ultimate goals are to include habit in predictive models of physical activity, and then to inform interventions to increase exercise adherence.

Tappe is with the Dept of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Tarves, Oltrazewski, and Frum are with the Dept of Psychology, LaSalle University, Philadelphia, PA.