A theory of physical activity maintenance

Claudio R. Nigg, Belinda Borrelli, Jay Maddock, Rod K. Dishman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Regular physical activity is related to numerous psychological and physical benefits. Physical activity interventions have had varying degrees of success with adoption; however, maintenance over the long term is even more difficult to achieve, as the majority of individuals who start a physical activity program drop out or relapse. Although the physical activity maintenance literature is scant, there is evidence that the predictors of adoption are different from those of maintenance. Thus, it follows that physical activity adoption and maintenance require unique approaches. The explanatory power of such predictors, however, is limited by the absence of a cogent theoretical framework. Therefore, this paper presents the Physical Activity Maintenance (PAM) theory, which incorporates individual psychosocial variables (goal-setting, motivation, and self-efficacy), and contextual variables of the environment and life stress (triggers of relapse). Goal-setting is framed as satisfaction, attainment, and commitment; motivation as self-motivation and expectations; and self-efficacy as both barrier and relapse. The contextual variables may facilitate or impede physical activity maintenance directly and indirectly via the individual psychosocial variables. The PAM is presented to stimulate research on physical activity maintenance and advance our understanding of how and why people do and do not maintain physical activity long term.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)544-560
Number of pages17
JournalApplied Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'A theory of physical activity maintenance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this