Title: How to motivate sedentary people to become (more) physically active in the long run? Lessons from Leuven
Authors: Boen, Filip
Issue Date: 17-Oct-2014
Host Document: FIS Communications in physical education, sport and recreation pages:35-36
Series Title: FIS Communications
Conference: FIS Communications edition:17 location:Nis, Serbia date:17-18 October 2014
Abstract: How to motivate sedentary people to become (more) physically active in the long run?
Lessons from Leuven
In this keynote, I will give an overview of a number of recent intervention studies that we have conducted at the KU Leuven to promote physical activity among different target groups. These interventions are inspired by the Self-Determination Theory (SDT; Ryan & Deci, 2000), which is currently the most dominant motivational framework within the domain of exercise psychology. SDT assumes that individuals possess three basic psychological needs that are essential for their growth and well-being: 1) the need for autonomy (i.e., the desire to be the origin of one’s own behavior); 2) the need for competence (i.e., the desire to experience mastery and success), and 3) the need for relatedness (i.e., the desire to have meaningful relations with other people). According to SDT, the more the social context provides an environment to satisfy these basic needs, the more individuals will experience autonomous forms of motivation. These autonomous forms of motivation have been found to facilitate sustained behavioral change, in contrast to controlled forms of motivation, which only lead to short-term adherence.
In a first intervention study, we developed and tested a cost-efficient need-supportive individual counseling program to stimulate sedentary university employees to become more physically active (Van Hoecke, et al., 2012). Ninety-two participants received 4 months of coaching by bachelors students in kinesiology who were specializing in health-related physical activity (n = 30). The program consisted of a limited number of individual contact moments (i.e. an intake session, three follow-up contacts and an out-take session), either face-to-face, by phone or by e-mail. Various measures were assessed both in the coaching group (n = 92) and in a control group (n = 34) at three moments: before the intervention (i.e., pre-test), after the intervention (i.e., post-test), and 1 year after pre-test measurements (i.e., follow-up test). The results revealed that while the control group remained stable from pre- to post-test, the coaching group increased significantly in moderate and strenuous physical activity. Additionally, the coaching group increased significantly in mild, moderate, and strenuous physical activity from pre- to follow-up tests, whereas the control group did not change. This study provided evidence for the long-term effectiveness of a need-supportive physical activity program that might be efficient at the community level.
In a second intervention study, we developed and tested a need-supportive walking program for the elderly (Pelssers et al., 2013). This structured walking program “Every Step Counts!” took place within a community-based senior organization and lasted for 10 weeks. The program prescribed pedometer-defined walks in weekly walking schedules, which were fitness-tailored and structured in walking load (intensity/volume) according to the principles of training progression. In addition, the program was offered as a social activity at meeting points of the organization to satisfy their the basic needs. Twenty-nine meeting points (n = 432) constituted the intervention condition, while ten meeting points (n = 148) formed the wait-list control condition. Measurements were organized at the start of the intervention (pretest) and at the end (posttest). Intention-to-treat linear mixed models showed small positive intervention effects on physical activity, fitness, and aspects of well-being. These results confirm the effectiveness of structured walking interventions with systematic training progression for the elderly and underscore the value of community-based senior organizations as intervention settings.
In a third intervention study, besides supporting individuals’ personal needs, we also targeted participants’ social identity to further facilitate lasting behavioral change. One-hundred ninety-six sedentary adults aged 55 to 70 years (n = 169) were randomized into three identity-based PA promoting interventions: (1) a personal identity need-supportive condition (PI), in which participants’ personal self was targeted during need-supportive counseling based on SDT; (2) a social identity condition (SI), in which participants’ social self was targeted during counseling based on the Self-Categorization Theory; (3) a joined identity condition (JI), in which participants’ personal and social self were targeted at the same time. Participants completed measures of physical activity (i.e., pedometer-based steps, pedometer-based aerobic minutes, self-reported) before (pre-test), immediately after (i.e., post-test) and one year after (i.e., follow-up) the six-week intervention. Mixed models showed significant increases in pedometer-based and self-reported PA from pre- to post-test, and from pre-test to follow-up, with no differences in changes over time between the conditions. There results suggest that in order facilitate behavioral change in the long run, one can either support individuals’ basic needs or focus on the norms associated with their social identity.

The general implications of these three studies will be discussed.

Key references:
Pelssers, J., Delecluse, C., Opdenacker, J., Kennis, E., Van Roie, E., & Boen, F. (2013). ‘Every step counts!’ - Effects of a structured walking intervention in a community-based senior organization on physical activity, fitness and well-being. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 21 (2), 167-185.
Ryan R.M., & Deci E.L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68–78.
Van Hoecke, A., Delecluse, C., Opdenacker, J., Lipkens, L., Martien, S., Boen, F. (2012). Long-term effectiveness and mediators of a need-supportive physical activity coaching among Flemish sedentary adults. Health Promotion International, 28 (3), 407-417.
Van Hoecke, A., Vanbeselaere, N., & Boen, F. (submitted). Targeting the personal or the social self: Year-round effectiveness of identity-based physical activity promotion among the elderly.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Physical Activity, Sports & Health Research Group

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