Research Article: The Importance of Autonomous Regulation for Students’ Successful Translation of Intentions into Behavior Change via Planning

Date Published: August 7, 2011

Publisher: SAGE-Hindawi Access to Research

Author(s): Dian Sheng Cao, Sonia Lippke, Wei Liu.


Physical activity has a high prevention potential in adolescents. This study investigated the relations between physical activity and intention, autonomous regulation, and planning. We hypothesized that planning mediates the relationship between intention and behavior and that this mediation should depend on the level of autonomous regulation. Stratified randomization sampling method was administered to assemble a sample of N = 534 students among two schools in China. To test the hypothesis, autonomous regulation, intention, and physical activity were assessed at baseline as well as planning and follow-up physical activity four weeks after the pretest. A moderated mediation model confirmed that planning mediated the intention-behavior relation with the effect of planning being moderated by autonomous regulation. Study results demonstrated that autonomous regulation facilitated the translation of intention into behavior change via planning. To promote physical activity among adolescents, interventions targeting planning and autonomous regulation might facilitate successful translation of intentions into behavior change.

Partial Text

There are lots of benefits from physical activity (PA) engagement. Regular physical activity participation can prevent premature mortality, coronary heart disease, as well as the prevalence of overweight and obesity and reduce the risk of diabetes 2, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer in adulthood [1–3]. Regular physical activity participation can also benefit psychological health by reducing depression and anxiety and increasing self-esteem and life satisfaction [4, 5]. During childhood and adolescence it had short-term as well as long-term effects on health [6]. Some studies revealed that formation of exercise habits during adolescence is an important foundation for physical activity in older age [7, 8].

Correlation analysis showed that all variables were significantly interrelated (see Table 1). Autonomous regulation proved discriminant validity with all other variables (r < .25), providing confirmation to include all variables in the subsequent analysis. This study aimed at shedding more light on the mechanisms underlying physical activity change processes in adolescents. The mediating effect of planning as well as the moderating effect of autonomous regulation was confirmed: planning mediated the relation between intention and behavior, whereas the mediating effect was moderated by one's levels of autonomous regulation index. Those who perceived higher levels of autonomous regulation were more likely to translate their intentions into behavior change. This is consistent with many previous studies, for example with findings by Beauchamp et al. [6] that autonomous regulation is associated with higher levels of regular physical activity intention and self-efficacy.   Source:


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