Promoting participation in physical activity using framed messages: an application of prospect theory

Br J Health Psychol. 2008 Nov;13(Pt 4):659-81. doi: 10.1348/135910707X246186. Epub 2007 Oct 8.


Objectives: Messages designed to motivate participation in physical activity usually emphasize the benefits of physical activity (gain-framed) as well as the costs of inactivity (loss-framed). The framing implications of prospect theory suggest that the effectiveness of these messages could be enhanced by providing gain-framed information only. We compared the effectiveness of gain-, loss-, and mixed-framed messages for promoting moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Design: Randomized trial.

Method: Sedentary, healthy callers to the US National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service (N=322) received gain-, loss-, or mixed-framed messages on three occasions (baseline, Week 1, and Week 5). Social cognitive variables and self-reported physical activity were assessed at baseline, Week 2, and Week 9. Separate regression analyses were conducted to examine message effects at each assessment point.

Results: At Week 2, gain- and mixed-framed messages resulted in stronger intentions and greater self-efficacy than loss-framed messages. At Week 9, gain-framed messages resulted in greater physical activity participation than loss- or mixed-framed messages. Social cognitive variables at Week 2 did not mediate the Week 9 framing effects on physical activity participation.

Conclusions: Using gain-framed messages exclusively may be a means of increasing the efficacy of physical activity materials.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Self Efficacy
  • Walking / psychology*