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The effect of mere-measurement of cognitions on physical activity behavior: a randomized controlled trial among overweight and obese individuals

Gaston Godin1*, Ariane Bélanger-Gravel2, Steve Amireault2, Marie-Claude Vohl3 and Louis Pérusse4

Author Affiliations

1 Canada Research Chair on Behavior and Health, Faculty of Nursing, Laval University, Quebec city (Quebec), Canada

2 Research Group on Behaviors in the Field of Health, Faculty of Nursing, Laval University, Quebec City (Quebec), Canada

3 Department of Food Science and Nutrition, Faculty of Agriculture and Food, Laval University, Quebec City (Quebec), Canada

4 Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Laval University, Quebec City (Quebec), Canada

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2011, 8:2  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-2

Published: 11 January 2011



The promotion of physical activity among an overweight/obese population is an important challenge for clinical practitioners and researchers. In this regard, completing a questionnaire on cognitions could be a simple and easy strategy to increase levels of physical activity. Thus, the aim of the present study was to test the effect of completing a questionnaire based on the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) on the level of physical activity.


Overall, 452 overweight/obese adults were recruited and randomized to the experimental or control group. At baseline, participants completed a questionnaire on cognitions regarding their participation in leisure-time physical activity (experimental condition) versus a questionnaire on fruit and vegetable consumption (control condition). The questionnaires assessed the TPB variables that are beliefs, attitude, norm, perception of control, intention and a few additional variables from other theories. At three-month follow-up, leisure-time physical activity was self-reported by means of a short questionnaire. An analysis of covariance with baseline physical activity level as covariate was used to verify the effect of the intervention.


At follow-up, 373 participants completed the leisure-time physical activity questionnaire. The statistical analysis showed that physical activity participation was greater among participants in the experimental condition than those in the control condition (F(1,370) = 6.85, p = .009, d = 0.20).


Findings indicate that completing a TPB questionnaire has a significant positive impact on subsequent participation in physical activity. Consequently, asking individuals to complete such a questionnaire is a simple, inexpensive and easy strategy to increase the level of physical activity among overweight/obese adults.