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ST3: Physical Activity and Reduced Sedentary Behavior

Framework Component

Readiness & Capacity - Goals and Intentions

Indicator Description

Two-part indicator measuring intentions and goals to increase physical activity and/or reduce sedentary behavior.

Physical activity is defined as any body movement that works muscles and requires more energy than resting. Sedentary behavior is defined as too much sitting or lying down at work, at home, in social settings, and during leisure time. Both increasing physical activity and decreasing sedentary behaviors is important for overall health.

Background and Context

ST3 will be used primarily for program evaluation to measure intention or goal setting changes. These changes may result from a short-term intervention such as a one-time workshop or contact or after one or two sessions within a series-based program. This information, however, provides interim markers of program success as interventions work toward behavioral changes.

To demonstrate improvement in intentions and goal setting, a post-test only measure can be used.

Studies indicate that moving more during the day, in addition to getting the daily 30 minutes of moderate activity on a daily basis, is necessary. Both increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary behavior should be considered in obesity prevention programming and evaluation. A lack of physical activity (too little exercise) and too much sedentary behavior change the body in different ways and should be measured separately. For example, programs designed to reduce obesity by increasing physical activity may not be effective if sedentary behavior remains high.

Outcome Measures

The number or percentage of SNAP-Ed participants who report intentions or set goals to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behavior.

Increased Physical Activity, Fitness, and Leisure Sport. Number or percentage of people reporting intentions or setting goals to increase duration, intensity, and frequency of exercise, physical activity, or leisure sport appropriate for the population of interest, and types of activities.

Reduced Sedentary Behavior. Number or percentage of people reporting intentions or setting goals to decrease time spent in sedentary behavior (computers, desk sitting, television watching) during the period assessed.

What to Measure

Physical activity or leisure sport intention or goal setting assessments should be measured using the dimensions of the activity performed including type (what), intensity (how hard), frequency (how often), and duration (how long) using self-report in minutes, days, etc.

Sedentary behavior intentions or goals are assessed using a self-report survey. Sedentary behavior should not be confused with screen time which, although is generally sedentary in nature, measures exposure to electronic screens such as phones, televisions, or computers. Sedentary behavior may involve screen time, but should include lying down, sitting, reading books, drawing, writing, and other non-screen-related inactivity (<1.5 METs, or the Metabolic Equivalent of Task).

Possible physical activity intention or goal setting topics include:

  • Increasing frequency (number of days)
  • Increasing time (number of minutes)
  • Increasing types of activity (cardiovascular, flexibility, muscular strength)
  • Increasing intensity (moderate or vigorous)
  • Increasing number of steps
  • Decreasing screen time (computer, video games, TV)


Older adults, adults, adolescents, children, preschoolers and toddlers (via parents or child care providers)

Surveys and Data Collection Tools



Additional Resources or Supporting Citations

Intention to Exercise Scale, Kerner & Grossman, 2001 (Assesses intention to adhere to a physical activity program for the next 12 months)

Self-efficacy for Exercise Scale, Resnick and Jenkins, 2000 (Assesses confidence in ability to exercise for 20 minutes 3 times a week)

Decisional Balance Questionnaire, Marcus et al, 1992 (Assesses decision to exercise or not) See below.

Motivating People to Be Physically Active, Bess Marcus (Book, has same great tools for measuring change, intention and motivation to change.)

Marcus BH, Selby VC, Niaura RS, Rossi JS. (1992). Self-efficacy and the stages of exercise behavior change. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 63, 60-66.

Norman GJ, Benisovich SV, Nigg CR, Rossi JS. (Mar, 1998). Examining three exercise staging algorithms in two samples. Poster presented at SBM. New Orleans, LA.

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

Rhodes RE, Mark RS, Temmel CP. (2012). Adult sedentary behavior: A systematic review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 42(3), e3.