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Researchers developing new tool for self-motivation

Nikos Ntoumanis has received a grant from TrygFonden to develop and test a new digital platform that trains individuals in self-enactable behavior change techniques (BCTs) aimed at encouraging them to engage in more physical activity.

By Marianne Lie Becker, , 2/1/2024

Physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide and represents a global public health issue. The latest Danish National Health Profile shows that nearly two out of three adult Danes do not meet the minimum recommendations for physical activity. However, 70 percent of the inactive individuals express a desire to become more active.

-Health behavior is influenced by several factors, such as social and physical environments, but fundamentally, active self-management is necessary if one wishes to change their behavior, explains Nikos Ntoumanis, professor and research leader at DRIVEN, the Danish Center for Motivation and Behavior Science at the University of Southern Denmark.

With the 3.2 million kroner grant from TrygFonden, he and his research group will initially recruit 20 participants from various workplaces. Together with an IT developer and the participants, they will design content, layout, and features for a digital platform (website or app) that will provide training in the use of self- enactable BCTs.

Offers a variety of behavior control techniques

-The platform will provide training in a variety of self-enactable BCTs that help bridge the gap between intention and new behavior, maintain the new behavior, and techniques to sustain it, says Ntoumanis.

In total, the platform will contain around 30 different techniques. Three of the techniques are goal setting, self-monitoring, and action planning combined with problem-solving.

Goal setting involves setting specific but realistic goals. Self-monitoring involves using tracking, such as an app, to assess whether you are moving sufficiently. 

-Action planning and problem-solving are also important to master, so you have a solution ready when a challenge arises for your planned physical activity. For example, if you know you won't make it to the gym today, you plan to do some exercises at work, so you still get moving.

Assistance in managing lifestyle changes

Once the platform is developed, researchers will test it on a larger group of people (80) over a six-month period and compare it with a group receiving standard information for physical activity.

-Our target audience is adult Danes who do not meet the minimum recommendations for physical activity but have a desire to become more active.

-We hope that this project will lead to a simple and easily accessible way for individuals to self-manage their motivation for lifestyle changes. Our work will result in a prototype of a training platform in self-enactable BCTs that can be used in other similar projects on other health behaviors, such as those involving healthy eating, alcohol consumption, smoking, and sleep.

About the project

Nikos Ntoumanis is the lead researcher, and the group includes Tina Dalager and Madalina Jäger from the Department of Sports and Biomechanics, Keegan Knittle from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, and Nelli Hankonen from Tampere University, Finland.

Editing was completed: 01.02.2024