Physical Activity and Variation in Momentary Behavioral Cognitions: An Ecological Momentary Assessment Study

J Phys Act Health. 2016 Mar;13(3):344-51. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2014-0547. Epub 2015 Aug 13.


Background: Decisions to perform moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) involve behavioral cognitive processes that may differ within individuals depending on the situation.

Methods: Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) was used to examine the relationships of momentary behavioral cognitions (ie, self-efficacy, outcome expectancy, intentions) with MVPA (measured by accelerometer). A sample of 116 adults (mean age, 40.3 years; 72.4% female) provided real-time EMA responses via mobile phones across 4 days. Multilevel models were used to test whether momentary behavioral cognitions differed across contexts and were associated with subsequent MVPA. Mixed-effects location scale models were used to examine whether subject-level means and within-subjects variances in behavioral cognitions were associated with average daily MVPA.

Results: Momentary behavioral cognitions differed across contexts for self-efficacy (P = .007) but not for outcome expectancy (P = .53) or intentions (P = .16). Momentary self-efficacy, intentions, and their interaction predicted MVPA within the subsequent 2 hours (Ps < .01). Average daily MVPA was positively associated with within-subjects variance in momentary self-efficacy and intentions for physical activity (Ps < .05).

Conclusions: Although momentary behavioral cognitions are related to subsequent MVPA, adults with higher average MVPA have more variation in physical activity self-efficacy and intentions. Performing MVPA may depend more on how much behavioral cognitions vary across the day than whether they are generally high or low.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Accelerometry
  • Adult
  • Cell Phone
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Ecological Momentary Assessment
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Multilevel Analysis
  • Self Efficacy*
  • Time Factors
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Walking / psychology