Background: Exercise-related cognitive errors (ECEs) represent a negative bias that causes individuals to exaggerate the struggle associated with their perceived physical activity barriers. The ECE concept is relatively new and associations with physical activity have only been examined cross-sectionally. The purpose of this study was to understand whether ECEs predicted attendance in regular fitness classes over a 12-week period and whether ECEs changed over time. Additionally, we examined if pre-class ECEs predicted self-managed moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) outside of their weekly classes and beyond the contribution of self-regulatory efficacy, a putative predictor of MVPA engagement.
Methods: Participants (N=83, Mage=54±13, 88% Female), registered in 12-week municipal fitness classes, completed online questionnaires (ECEs, self-regulatory efficacy, MVPA) at 3 time points: pre-class, week 6, and week 12. Participants also self-reported the number of missed fitness classes.
Results: ECEs did not change from pre (M=3.67) to 6 weeks (M=3.73) or 12 weeks (M=3.58). Those who reported missing at least 1 fitness class reported significantly higher ECE scores (t=2.35, p<.05, M=4.58, SD=1.50) compared to those who did not miss any classes (M=3.55, SD =1.50). Pre-ECEs, but not pre-SRE significantly predicted 12-week MVPA outside of the class (R2 adj=.175, p=.001, ECE?=-.471, p=.001 SRE?=-.124, p=.342).
Conclusion: ECEs differentiated those who missed and did not miss any classes during their 12-week program and predicted MVPA outside of participants' fitness classes. ECEs may be a useful concept for understanding class non-adherence and self-managed MVPA engagement.
Future studies should ECE change over time for individuals who have limited exercise experience.