Commonly, health behaviour theories have been applied to single behaviours, giving insights into specific behaviours but providing little knowledge on how individuals pursue an overall healthy lifestyle. In the context of diet and physical activity, we investigated the extent to which cross-behaviour cognitions, namely transfer cognitions and compensatory health beliefs, contribute to single behaviour theory.
A total of 767 participants from two European regions (i.e., Germany n = 351, southern Europe n = 416) completed online questionnaires on physical activity and healthy dietary behaviour, behaviour-specific cognitions (i.e., self-efficacy, outcome expectancies, risk perception, intention, action planning, action control), as well as cross-behaviour cognitions, namely transfer cognitions and compensatory health beliefs.
Nested path models were specified to investigate the importance of cross-behaviour cognitions over and above behaviour-specific predictors of physical activity and healthy nutrition.
Across both health behaviours, transfer cognitions were positively associated with intention and self-regulatory strategies. Compensatory health beliefs were negatively associated with intention. Action planning and action control mediated the effect of intentions on behaviour.
Cross-behaviour cognitions contribute to single behaviour theory and may explain how individuals regulate more than one health behaviour.
Statement of contribution
What is already known on this subject?
- Cross-behaviour cognitions are related to a healthy lifestyle.
- Compensatory health beliefs hinder the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.
- Transfer cognitions encourage the engagement in a healthy lifestyle.
What does this study add?
- Transfer cognitions were positively associated with intentions, action planning, and action control over and above behaviour-specific cognitions.
- Compensatory health beliefs were related to intentions only.
- Both facilitating and debilitating cross-behaviour cognitions need to be studied within a unified multiple behaviour research framework.