Mediators of Physical Activity Adherence: Results from an Action Control Intervention in Couples

Corina Berli, Gertraud Stadler, Patrick E Shrout, Niall Bolger, Urte Scholz

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17 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Behavior change interventions targeting self-regulation skills have generally shown promising effects. However, the psychological working mechanisms remain poorly understood.
Purpose: We examined theory-based mediators of a randomized controlled trial in couples targeting action control (i.e., continuously monitoring and evaluating an ongoing behavior). Self-reported action control was tested as the main mediating mechanism of physical activity adherence, and in addition self-efficacy and received social support from the partner.
Methods: Overweight individuals (N=121) and their heterosexual partners were randomly allocated to an intervention (information + action control text messages) or a control group (information only). Across a period of 28 days, participants reported on action control, self-efficacy, and received support in end-of-day diaries, and wore triaxial accelerometers to assess stable between-person differences in mediators and the outcome adherence to recommended daily activity levels (≥30 minutes of moderate activity in bouts of at least 10 minutes).
Results: On average, participants in the intervention group showed higher physical activity adherence levels, and higher action control, self-efficacy and received support compared to participants in the control group. Action control and received support emerged as mediating mechanisms, explaining 19.7% and 24.6% of the total intervention effect respectively in separate analyses, and 13.9% and 22.2% when analyzed simultaneously. No evidence emerged for self-efficacy as mediator.
Conclusions: Action control and received support partly explain the effects of an action control intervention on physical activity adherence levels. Continued research is needed to better understand what drives intervention effects to guide innovative and effective health promotion.
( ISRCTN15705531)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-76
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number1
Early online date14 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

This project (PP00P1_133632/1) and the first author (P2BEP1_158975) were funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.


  • randomized controlled trials
  • mediation
  • physical activity
  • action control
  • self-efficacy
  • social support
  • couples


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