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Action control bridges the planning-behaviour gap: a longitudinal study on physical exercise in young adults

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Objectives: Maintaining physical exercise levels may not only require motivation and planning but also action control which is supposed to mediate between planning and exercise.

Design: Behavioural intention, action planning, coping planning and past behaviour were assessed at baseline, and action control and concurrent exercise were measured one month later in 497 young adults.

Method: Three nested structural models were specified to examine different mediation mechanisms. One model reflected the intention–planning–behaviour chain, the other one focused on the intention–action control–behaviour chain and the third model comprised the full sequence.

Results: Indirect effects from intentions on exercise involved either planning or action control as mediating variables. In Model 3, all three constructs (action planning, coping planning and action control) were sequential mediators between intentions and later physical exercise levels. Action and coping planning were not directly but indirectly related to exercise via action control.

Conclusions: Findings support the sequential mediation for planning and action control as antecedents of physical exercise. Action control is needed for exercise, because planning in itself is not always sufficient. Maintaining exercise levels may be attributed to effective self-regulatory strategies such as action control in combination with planning.
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Keywords: action control; health behaviour; intention–behaviour gap; physical excercise; planning

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Health Psychology, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany 2: Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL), CIS-IUL, Lisboa, Portugal 3: Instituto de Investigaciones Psicológicas, Universidad de Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica 4: Institute for Positive Psychology and Education, Australian Catholic University, Sydney, Australia

Publication date: August 3, 2015

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