The Effect of Episodic Future Thinking on a Novel Measure of Behavioral Economic Demand for Exercise

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Virginia Tech


Physical inactivity is a major contributor to increased disease prevalence and reduced quality of life. Measuring behavioral economic demand for exercise may enable more effective physical activity intervention development. In study one, we developed the leisure-time-as-price exercise purchase task (LT-EPT), wherein participants (n = 175) indicate hypothetical likelihood to trade leisure time for access to exercise time. We observed weak to moderate correlations between demand indices (Q1%, α, BP1, and Pmax) generated from the LT-EPT and self-reported leisure and exercise time, demonstrating initial validation of the LT-EPT. In study two, we examine the effect of episodic future thinking (EFT; vivid, personalized prospection of future events) in adults not meeting physical activity guidelines (n = 127) on demand for exercise and delay discounting (sensitivity to delayed rewards). We observed reduced delay discounting in participants randomized to engage in EFT, but no difference between EFT and health information thinking (HIT) controls. In study three, we further examined the effect of EFT on demand for exercise in adults with type 2 diabetes and obesity participating in a 24-week randomized controlled trial (n = 71). All participants engaged in a multicomponent behavioral intervention focused on weight loss and glycemic control; additionally, participants were randomized to engage in EFT or HIT thrice daily beginning in week 3. We measured demand for exercise and delay discounting (among other outcomes) at weeks 0, 8, and 24, observing no differences between EFT or HIT groups in demand indices (Q1%, α) or delay discounting at any time point. In conclusion, early evidence suggests that the LT-EPT may be a valid method to measure behavioral economic demand for exercise; however, EFT may not be an effective intervention to increase demand for exercise.



episodic future thinking, exercise demand, type 2 diabetes