Behavior Change Techniques in Physical Activity Interventions for Multiple Sclerosis

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2021 Sep;102(9):1788-1800. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2021.01.071. Epub 2021 Feb 5.


Objective: To identify and summarize the behavior change techniques (BCTs) included in behavior change interventions for promoting physical activity in persons with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Data sources: PubMed, PsycINFO, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Complete, Scopus, and Embase were initially searched in November 2019, and data extraction began in June 2020.

Study selection: The inclusion criteria for studies were: adults older than 18 years with diagnosed MS, English language, clinical trial designs (ie, pre-post or randomized controlled trials), group or individual interventions, and home or community-based settings wherein physical activity was defined as a primary or secondary outcome. Exclusion criteria for studies included protocol manuscripts pending results, case studies, studies focused on populations with multiple chronic diseases, and interventions targeting multiple behaviors. Two researchers completed screening for study selection, and a third researcher served as a referee. Of the initially identified 8681 studies, 54 studies met selection criteria.

Data extraction: Data extraction was completed by 3 researchers. Each article was coded by 2 of the 3 researchers, and a fourth researcher resolved discrepancies. Data extracted from each paper included study title, authors, country, year, sample size, study design, intervention details, physical activity outcomes, and BCTs.

Data synthesis: Thirty-eight unique behavior change interventions were identified, and 53 of the 93 possible BCTs were included across the studies. The mean number of BCTs per study was 15, and studies and effect sizes across studies ranged from 0.04-1.49.

Conclusions: This review provides a comprehensive overview of BCTs as the active ingredients in behavior change interventions targeting physical activity in MS. Results from this study provide a compendium for future intervention development for increasing physical activity and improving overall health in MS.

Keywords: Behavioral medicine; Exercise; Health behavior; Multiple sclerosis; Rehabilitation; Systematic review.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis / psychology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Surveys and Questionnaires