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date: 18 September 2019

Summary and Keywords

Compelling evidence worldwide suggests that the number of physically inactive individuals is high, and it is increasing. Given that lack of physical activity has been linked to a number of physical and mental health problems, identifying sustainable, cost-effective, and scalable initiatives to increase physical activity has become a priority for researchers, health practitioners, and policymakers. One way to identify such initiatives is to use knowledge derived from psychological theories of motivation and behavior change. There is a plethora of such theories and models that describe a variety of cognitive, affective, and behavioral mechanisms that can target behavior at a conscious or an unconscious level. Such theories have been applied, with varying degrees of success, to inform exercise and physical activity interventions in different life settings (e.g., schools, hospitals, and workplaces) using both traditional (e.g., face-to-face counseling and printed material) and digital technology platforms (e.g., smartphone applications and customized websites). This work has offered important insights into how to create optimal motivational conditions, both within individuals and in the social environments in which they operate, to facilitate long-term engagement in exercise and physical activity. However, we need to identify overlap and synergies across different theoretical frameworks in an effort to develop more comprehensive, and at the same time more distinct, theoretical accounts of behavior change with reference to physical activity promotion. It is also important that researchers and practitioners utilize such theories in interdisciplinary research endeavors that take into account the enabling or restrictive role of cultural norms, the built environment, and national policies on physical activity.

Keywords: physical activity, exercise, motivation, behavior change, psychological theory

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