Flexible and Unconscious Pursuit of Exercise Goals: Coping Planning is Instrumental in Exercise Habit Formation

  • P.-E. Chamberland
  • P. Miquelon


Background: Action planning (AP) was shown to foster exercise habit formation (de Bruijn et al, 2011). However, coping planning (CP) may be more directly involved in this process given its critical focus on relapse prevention during maintenance (Prochaska et al, 2009). Methods: S1- 309 undergraduates were surveyed once on exercise habit, frequency, motivation, intention, self-regulatory tensions, AP and CP. S2- 531 runners completed those measures twice over 2 months. AP&CP were measured retrospectively at T2. S3- 208 adults in the action stage, randomized to AP only, AP&CP or control conditions, completed similar measures twice over 2 months. Findings: In studies 1&2, CP supplanted AP as a predictor of habit after controlling for all variables. In study 3, experimental effects on habit were observable only among low-habit participants of the AP&CP condition. Discussion: CP appears more typical of habitual exercisers than AP, and seems instrumental in achieving habit once the behaviour is successfully initiated. Individuals should therefore resort to CP to address relapses on the long term only after having steadily adopted a viable routine with AP to get around initial obstacles.
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