Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 02 August 2012 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00270

Using text messages to bridge the intention-behavior gap? A pilot study on the use of text message reminders to increase objectively assessed physical activity in daily life

  • 1 Health Psychology Unit, Department of Psychology, Karl-Franzens-University, Graz, Austria
  • 2 Department of Clinical Psychology, Johannes Gutenberg-University, Mainz, Germany
  • 3 IFG – Institute for Health and Management, Mainz, Germany

Sedentarism is a serious health concern in industrialized countries throughout the world. We examined whether a text message-based intervention, targeted at increasing daily levels of physical activity, would be more effective than a standard psychoeducational intervention and a control condition. Sixty-three individuals (43 women) with a mean age of 23.7 years participated in the study. They were randomly assigned to a psychoeducational standard intervention; an augmented intervention with additional short text messages sent to the mobile phones to remind participants of their action plans, and a control condition. Objectively assessed physical activity and self-efficacy were assessed pre- and post-intervention. Participants in the control condition showed a significant decline in physical activity from pre-assessment to post-assessment, whereas participants in both intervention arms exhibited a slight increase. Moreover, the augmented intervention resulted in a marginally significant increase in self-efficacy, whereas the standard intervention resulted in a significant decrease. The findings suggest that short text messages reminding individuals of their action plans are not more effective than an intervention without text messages, although there seems to be a beneficial effect on self-efficacy, which might facilitate behavior change in the long-term. Challenging aspects of the research design (e.g., reactivity of the assessment protocol) are discussed and suggestions for future research are highlighted.

Keywords: accelerometer, daily life physical activity, intention-behavior gap, mobile phone, reactivity, sedentary lifestyle, short message service, text reminder messages

Citation: Schwerdtfeger AR, Schmitz C and Warken M (2012) Using text messages to bridge the intention-behavior gap? A pilot study on the use of text message reminders to increase objectively assessed physical activity in daily life. Front. Psychology 3:270. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00270

Received: 27 April 2012; Paper pending published: 29 May 2012;
Accepted: 16 July 2012; Published online: 02 August 2012.

Edited by:

Martina K. Kanning, University of Stuttgart, Germany

Reviewed by:

Shauna M. Burke, The University of Western Ontario, Canada
Tamlin Conner, University of Otago, New Zealand

Copyright: © 2012 Schwerdtfeger, Schmitz and Warken. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Andreas R. Schwerdtfeger, Health Psychology Unit, Department of Psychology, Karl-Franzens-University Graz, Universitaetsplatz 2/III, Graz 8010, Austria. e-mail: andreas.schwerdtfeger@uni-graz.at

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