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Application of Social Cognitive Theory to the Study of Walking for Active Transportation



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Active transportation (AT) is a form of physical activity involving human-powered transportation (e.g., walking) and is associated with health benefits. However, the majority of Canadians do not use AT. Although environmental factors, such as proximity, are correlated with AT, interventions to change such factors have been ineffective. According to social cognitive theory, both environmental and personal factors (i.e., social and spatial cognitions) may influence motivated behaviour. The social cognitions of interest in the present study included self-regulatory efficacy to schedule (i.e., confidence to regularly schedule walking for AT), and to overcome barriers (i.e., confidence to cope with barriers to walking for AT). Spatial cognitions included distance and travel time cognitions. The purpose of the study was to examine whether social cognitive personal factors (i.e., scheduling self-efficacy, barriers self-efficacy), spatial cognitive personal factors (i.e., distance and travel time cognitions), and an environmental factor (i.e., proximity) were associated with walking for AT to/from a university campus over a two-week period in a convenience sample of adults. Participants in this prospective observational study were a convenience sample of 105 students, faculty, and staff at a western Canadian university, who ranged in age from 17 to 55 years (M = 24.62 years, SD = 8.15). Participants completed three online surveys over a two-week period. Social cognitions for the following two-week period and spatial cognitions were assessed at Time 1. Recall of walking for AT to/from a university campus in the previous week was assessed at Time 2 and Time 3. Total walking for AT to/from campus over the two-week period was the outcome variable. The overall hierarchical multiple regression model predicting AT from the social and spatial cognitions and proximity was significant (R2adjusted = .53; p < .01). As hypothesized, scheduling (ßstd = .44, p < .01) and barriers (ßstd = .23, p < .05) self-efficacy were associated with AT. Scheduling self-efficacy was the strongest predictor. Contrary to hypotheses, distance and travel time cognitions and proximity were not significant (p’s > .05). Social cognitions, particularly self-regulatory efficacy to schedule, and efficacy to overcome barriers, may play an important role in individuals’ use of walking for AT to/from a university campus. Future research should continue to examine social cognitive-theory based personal and environmental predictors of AT, such as self-regulatory efficacy to goal set, outcome expectations, the weather and residential density, to better understand potential determinants of this health-promoting type of physical activity.



active commuting, physical activity, social cognitive theory, Active transportation



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


College of Kinesiology


College of Kinesiology


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