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Why adolescents (do not) plan physical activity?


When people are motivated to do something, creating concrete action plan is an evidence-based strategy to improve one’s chances of success. Hence, this effective self-regulation strategy to achieve one’s goals is typically prompted in various interventions. However, not all people take up planning. In our new study just published, we investigated how adolescents explain why they take up planning for physical activity, and why not.


The qualitative analysis of participants’ interviews showed that the reasons for planning focused on the positive feelings that planning gives rise to (a plan may strengthen the feeling of autonomy and a sense of progress), or on the beneficial acts that planning results in (to clarify to oneself what to do and to get things done).


The reasons for not planning highlight that planning might give rise to negative feelings (promoting the feeling of failure, of being obliged and unspontaneous) or emphasize identity-related dimensions of planning (planning may work for others but not for me because it is not ‘my cup of tea’).


Our results indicate that planning may not only affect behavioral control but also the feelings of autonomy and sense of one’s own competence, and thus motivation. In the article, we present a set of practical suggestions on ways to promote the uptake and sustained use of planning, for example in educational interventions. We recommend the following strategies to intervention planners and providers: 


  1. challenge participant’s ‘non-planner’ identity.
  2. emphasize the variety of ways to plan available to people to select from. The plans don’t always have to follow similar templates across people.
  3. take into account the social dimension of planning: Emerging research shows that dyadic planning (e.g. couples) or planning among peer groups may be more effective in instilling actual behaviour change. It may also be more fun!  
  4. support planning self-efficacy.


We hope our paper is useful for intervention developers in finding new ways to motivate people to make plans to reach their goals. Read the full paper here

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