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Open Access Research

Should implementation intentions interventions be implemented in obesity prevention: the impact of if-then plans on daily physical activity in Dutch adults

Emely De Vet12*, Anke Oenema2, Paschal Sheeran3 and Johannes Brug4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Sciences and EMGO institute for Health and Care Research, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, VU University Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1085, 1081 HV Amsterdam, the Netherlands

2 Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC University Medical Center, PO Box 2040, 3000 CA Rotterdam, the Netherlands

3 Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK

4 EMGO institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2009, 6:11  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-6-11

Published: 6 March 2009

Abstract

Background

Forming implementation intentions (specifying when, where and how to act) has been proposed as a potentially effective and inexpensive intervention, but has mainly been studied in controlled settings for straightforward behaviors.

Purpose

To examine if forming implementation intentions (II) could be used in large-scale, population-based interventions that aim to promote more complex and clinically relevant behavior change, we tested the impact of different II on increasing daily physical activity (PA) aimed at weight maintenance among 709 Dutch adults.

Methods

At T0, participants were randomly allocated to a control group or to form II for 1) a prescribed action (walking), 2) self-selected activities, 3) self-selected activities and repeat making these II two times. All participants were asked to increase PA by at least two hours a week (15–20 minutes per day). Post-tests took place two weeks (response 85%), three months (response 78%) and six months (response 79%) post-intervention.

Results

No main effects of II formation on BMI or physical activity were found. Intention to increase physical activity moderated the effects of repeated II, but not of the other II conditions. Forming repeated II had a positive effect on total PA and number of active days for respondents with strong intentions.

Conclusion

Implementation intention interventions may not yet be ready for implementation on its own for large-scale obesity prevention in the general public. Future research should test strategies for optimal II formation in both initiating and maintaining behavioral change.

Trial registration

ISRCTN81041724