Listening to the body for insight: Self-focused attention during exercise predicts exercising over time


Self-focused attention (SFA) causes self-evaluation. Some studies report that self-evaluation predicts exercise outcomes while others do not. Few studies have applied SFA to predict exercise behavior. We argue that trait self-control may be a critical moderator of SFA and exercise over time. Trait self-control is the ability to control responses and to alter behavior to meet goals. We predicted that trait self-control moderates SFA and exercising, and we tested the hypotheses that: 1) SFA at baseline (t1) predicts exercise at eight weeks post-baseline (t3); 2) SFA and exercise are each moderated by trait self-control; and 3) exercise pattern (consistent, variable, or no exercise pattern in past four weeks) moderates SFA and trait self-control's influence on exercising. METHODS. 79 students (22.7±4.9 yrs) completed the following self-report measures: SFA was created for this study; exercise over time (t1 & t3; Godin LTEQ); and trait self-control (Self-Control Scale). RESULTS. SFA at t1 was positively associated with exercising at t3 (p<.05). As expected, trait self-control moderated SFA and exercise at t3 (while controlling for t1 exercise), 95% CIs [.03, .49], such that SFA predicted exercise only when trait self-control was high, 95% CIs [1.73, 12.31]. Further, when exercise had no established pattern, then high trait self-control and high SFA were associated with increased exercise, 95% CIs [1.64, 21.45], while low trait self-control and high SFA was associated with lower exercise. CONCLUSION. High trait self-control individuals benefited from tuning-in to their body (i.e., SFA), especially if exercising were not yet an established activity for them.