Southern Fried Jogging: Exercise-specific Compensatory Health Beliefs and Health Behaviour
1Sheffield Hallam University, Department of Psychology, United Kingdom
2University of Sheffield, Department of Psychology, United Kingdom
3University of Manchester, School of Psychological Sciences, Manchester Center for Health Psychology, United Kingdom
Background Compensatory health beliefs (CHBs) are beliefs that an unhealthy behaviour (e.g. chocolate cake) can be compensated for by a healthy one (e.g. exercise). The aim of this study was to test the predictive validity of an exercise-specific CHB questionnaire on self-reported health behaviour. Method In an online study, 625 UK participants completed the exercise-specific CHB questionnaire at two time points with a one month interval (N=212 at follow-up). Results Overall, endorsement of exercise CHBs significantly predicted vigorous exercise, fast food and alcohol consumption over a one-month period, while controlling for baseline measures. Inactive and minimally active participants endorsed significantly more CHBs than those who were physically active at both time points. Discussion: Exercise CHBs are associated with a range of unhealthy behaviours, implying that CHBs are used as a means of justifying unhealthy behaviour. Analysing exercise specific CHBs would appear to be useful in understanding physical (in)activity and other health behaviours. Further research is required to identify ways in which CHBs can be challenged to bring about health promoting behaviours.