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14.11.2017 | Main Articles | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

German Journal of Exercise and Sport Research 1/2018

Affective–Reflective Theory of physical inactivity and exercise

Foundations and preliminary evidence

German Journal of Exercise and Sport Research > Ausgabe 1/2018
Ralf Brand, Panteleimon Ekkekakis


This article introduces a new theory, the Affective–Reflective Theory (ART) of physical inactivity and exercise. ART aims to explain and predict behavior in situations in which people either remain in a state of physical inactivity or initiate action (exercise). It is a dual-process model and assumes that exercise-related stimuli trigger automatic associations and a resulting automatic affective valuation of exercise (type-1 process). The automatic affective valuation forms the basis for the reflective evaluation (type-2 process), which can follow if self-control resources are available. The automatic affective valuation is connected with an action impulse, whereas the reflective evaluation can result in action plans. The two processes, in constant interaction, direct the individual towards or away from changing behavior. The ART of physical inactivity and exercise predicts that, when there is an affective–reflective discrepancy and self-control resources are low, behavior is more likely to be governed by the affective type-1 process. This introductory article explains the underlying concepts and main theoretical roots from which the ART of physical inactivity and exercise was developed (field theory, affective responses to exercise, automatic evaluation, evaluation-behavior link, dual-process theorizing). We also summarize the empirical tests that have been conducted to refine the theory in its present form.

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