Behavioural Intervention: Increasing Exercise Essay Example
Behavioural Intervention: Increasing Exercise Essay Example

Behavioural Intervention: Increasing Exercise Essay Example

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  • Pages: 10 (2739 words)
  • Published: October 5, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
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This study sought to test the use of operant conditioning principles to increase the levels of exercise of the author, more specifically to increase the number of push-ups and sit-up sets. A baseline measuring of the sum of both sets of the exercise was recorded over a 10 day period. An intervention plan was then used in an attempt to increase the levels of exercise sessions done in the subsequent 10 day intervention testing period. Bloom’s method was used in the analysis to compare the baseline and intervention periods.

Using this method, the research hypothesis was supported that operant conditioning did increase the levels of exercise significantly. Behavioral intervention: Increasing exercise The importance of exercise, especially in the widely sedentary lifestyle found today cannot be overstated. Physical inactivity is recognized as one of the most important populations health risk f


actors. According to a government study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), only about 57 percent of the population performs enough activity to gain health benefits (Armstrong, Bauman & Davies, 2000).To further highlight this phenomenon, the AIHW study also found gardening to be amongst the most popular physical activities found, mainly amongst the senior population (Armstrong, Bauman & Davies, 2000). Researchers have reported alarmingly that 47 percent of female and 32 percent of male university-going students in Australia are sufficiently inactive (Leslie, Owen, Bauman, Sallis, & Lo, 1999).

Leslie et al. (1999) further found that physical activity typically declines between adolescence to adulthood, especially after the age of 30. Physical activity is not just essential for a healthy lifestyle but has been recommended as part of a treatment plan to fight depression, obesity and other

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psychological disorders (Palmer, 2005; Cagler, Gurses, Mutluay & Kiziltan, 2005). Furthermore, it has been found that regular physical activity minimizes the risk of teenage women developing breast cancer (Bernstein, Henderson, Hanisch, Sullivan-Halley & Ross, 1994). It can therefore be argued that exercise is essential to achieve good health and minimize the risk of various diseases.Thus, a need to understand the reasons for physical inactivity and implement effective intervention strategies is imperative.

In his study, Shimp (2001) reports that a commonly used platform to facilitate and maintain target behavior is via the use of conditioning, especially operant conditioning. The conditioning theory was first introduced in 1937 by the radical behaviorist, B. F. Skinner (Bitterman, 2006).

Operant behavior was described by Skinner as behavior that is controlled by its consequences (Staddon & Cerutti, 2003).Staddon and Cerutti (2003) further state that although the term was novel, the idea was nothing more than what was then called Instrumental Learning. Skinner’s conditioning theory in short emphasizes that if the behavior is followed by a positive reaction, it is likely to be repeated, called positive reinforcement (Carver & Scheier, 2004). Conversely, if the behavior has a negative reaction, it is likely it will not be repeated frequently, called negative reinforcement (Carver & Scheier, 2004).

This follows the Premack Principle which states that a commonly occurring action, one more desirable for the actor, can be used effectively as a reinforcer for a less commonly occurring one, that is one less desirable for the actor (DiLalla, 2002). An example used to illustrate this principle is a parent requiring a child to participate in household chores before he or she can watch television. The term reinforcer is

used to suggest anything that strengthens behavioral tendencies (Shimp, 2001).In this study, the author attempts to use the principles of operant conditioning on himself to increase the amount of exercise completed after an initial baseline monitoring period, to determine the occurrence of the behavior. Thereafter, an intervention plan is proposed and the author then monitors and records the occurrence of exercise performed, after positively reinforcing three occurrences a day of a workout.

The reinforcer used to act as an incentive is a reduction in household chores, specifically washing of dishes after dinner.For every instance in the actual intervention period that the author completes 3 workout sessions per day, he is relieved of his responsibility of washing crockery. The author hypothesizes that the target behavior of maintaining a minimum of 3 workouts per day is achievable via the use of operant conditioning principles. Method Participant In this study, the participant of the experiment is also the author and is referred to as “BS”. BS is aged 25 and in relatively good health.

There were o significant medical histories recorded for BS who works on a permanent part-time basis (28 hours per week or four days), whilst studying at university on a full-time basis. BS is employed by one of the major banks in Australia and works in the position of bank teller. His job entails dealing with customers on a face-to-face basis to serve their financial needs, as well as reach the sales targets required for the job. University commitments on-campus total 12 hours per week and the remainder of his time is spent working.

BS although relatively young is married and lives in a townhouse with his wife.

BS stands at 170 centimeters tall and weighs 81 kilograms. Attached in Appendix B is a copy of the narrative record, monitoring the occurrences of the target behavior, as well as BS’s subjective feelings during the observation and intervention periods. Self-monitoring method Whilst physical activity or exercise is measured, a more accurate definition of the monitored behavior is an activity that requires physical which increases the heart rate, leading to improved muscle toning.

For the purposes of this study, the ‘workout’ measured involved the repetitive and deliberate series of repetitions of push-ups and sit-ups totally 70 each. A total of 10 repetitions is termed a set. First, a set of push-ups was undertaken and then followed by a set of sit-ups. In that manner, 7 sets of each exercise had to be completed to complete the workout. A set of sit-up crunches involved using the abdominal muscles to raise the torso from a supine to a sitting position with both feet resting horizontally and parallel to the ground suspended in the air.

A set of push-ups, which is specifically aimed at strengthening the arm and shoulder muscles, was performed by lying face down with the palms on the floor, raising and lowering the body using the arms. There was no fitness equipment used, instead, body weight was utilized to provide the necessary resistance for the exercise. In recording the behavior, there were questionable instances that were either scored or not scored as part of the baseline and intervention recording. Within the overall objective of a fitter and healthier body and lifestyle, additional walking around the household and an increase in household chores to keep the body active

was recorded and scored. Thus, if BS completed extra household chores than usual, it was recorded and scored as a workout session.

This included any gardening and outdoor activities such as washing the car. However, the use of protein and all other dietary supplements, a diet schedule to obtain the desired image and a heart-rate increase due to other physiological factors, such as anxiety, were collectively not recorded and not scored.The author attempted to undertake the above exercise routine at least three times a day, with at least two hours of rest between each workout to provide adequate rest to body muscles. Lastly, the functional analysis used to analyze the behavior to identify antecedent stimuli and consequences that may be maintaining it is the SORCK analysis (Martin & Pear, 1996).

The SORCK is grounded in an operant perspective on the maintenance of behaviors and is used to identify the antecedent and consequent events that maintain behaviors. The SORCK used to self-assess the author is attached in Appendix A.Functional Analysis of Behaviour Findings from the SORCK analyses indicate that BS is a permanent part-time employee, a full-time university student and a husband. Whilst determined to be the best he can be in fulfilling the commitments and meeting the demands placed upon him, BS is particularly poor at time management and as a consequence, his health is somewhat neglected, resulting in weight gain. The weight gain has negatively impacted his self-esteem. His helplessness to adopt a healthier lifestyle and visit the local fitness center, due to a lack of time has resulted in habitual eating.

BS is determined however to improve his health and physique, especially when his close group

of friends are involved in group fitness activities at the local fitness center. With his wife as a fitness enthusiast, BS is constantly reinforced and reminded to adopt a healthier lifestyle. With this study used as an experiment to monitor the exercise routine of BS, BS has the perfect excuse to start an exercise routine at home. Upon completing a workout routine at home, he is immediately socially reinforced with the incentive of a reduction in household chores and praise and encouragement from his partner.His partner also witnessed his workout routines and consistently reinforced his exercise with praise.

After successful workouts, the extrinsic rewards of a decrease in chores led to increased behaviors of exercising and intrinsic feelings of strength, weight loss, and an improved physique. Furthermore, compliments and praise from work colleagues contributed positively. These delayed consequences further reinforced the behavior. Both positive and negative reinforcements were active in BS adhering to his strict exercise routine. Negative reinforcements were present via a decrease in insults and abusive humor and positive reinforcements via increased compliments, a better body image, weight loss and a reduction in household chores. Intervention The intervention used followed operant conditioning principles.

The development of the intervention was based primarily on activity reinforcement with the incentive of completing three workouts per day and being rewarded with a decrease in household chores. Another type of reinforcement encountered in this study was positive social reinforcement such as encouragement and praise.This then led to negative reinforcement when BS experienced weight loss which thus led to a decrease of insults and abusive jokes regarding his weight, appearance and body. The reinforcers were clearly within the means of BS

and therefore resulting in conditioning occurring. Results The baseline monitoring rate produced an average of 1.5 workouts per day, over the 10 day period prior to the intervention, as can be seen in Figure 1. This is classified as a deficit performance as it occurs at a low frequency and intensity. Following this period, the intervention plan was enforced, and a significant difference. Raw scores can be seen in appendix B for both the baseline and intervention data.

The actual intervention period behavior rate of the exercise was 3. 1 workouts per day, over the 10 days after the intervention. This suggests that there was a significant difference found in the behavior pattern of BS as the target rate for this experiment was 3. 0 workouts per day, during the course of this experiment. Blooms method was used to analyze the data of the current experiment. The desired behavior range of three workouts per day was achieved only once in a total of 10 days in the baseline period.

As a result, for the behavior intervention to be considered successful, a minimum of 4 scores is required to be above the minimum workout ratio of three or more workouts per day. As can be seen in Figure 2, there were 8 instances recorded for which the minimum criteria of three workouts per day was achieved. The author thus rejects the null hypotheses (p < . 05), that there was no significant difference and supports the research hypothesis that operant conditioning techniques do increase the target behavior, which is exercised in this study.

Intervention Period Behaviour Rate Discussion The hypothesis tested was supported; operant conditioning techniques did influence the

target behavior, which was exercising. This highlights that behavior can be accomplished provided that there are desirable consequences as a reward. Although there were a variety of reasons for the sedentary lifestyle before the intervention phase, the very same commitments were still demanded upon BS, yet there was an increase in exercising behaviour.The implications are that to a large extent, the participant made a conscious effort to undertake his exercise routine, so long as a reward was present which motivated him.

Similarly, such techniques must be incorporated into a wider intervention technique for people to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Self-efficacy usually is dramatically reduced when an individual who has low self-esteem is repeatedly mocked and insulted (Li, Fisher, Harmer & McAuley, 2005). BS initially reported low self-esteem and did not manage to find time to exercise, however, he did manage to adhere to a training routine through conditioning. However, the neglected opinion in previous research is that many people need to boost their self-esteem and increase their self-efficacy to merely start an exercise routine (DiLalla, 2002). Continual rejections and insults naturally hamper the confidence of people and the role of psychologists in the future may be to strengthen the needs of people before they can help themselves towards an active and conducive lifestyle (Palmer, 2005).

When evaluating the findings, it is important to consider the limitations of this study. The author suggests that as this study was undertaken over a period of approximately three weeks, suggesting the time period for genuine change is too short. Change is usually measured in fitness terms if consistent over a period of six months (Powell & Blair, 1994). Thus, although the

change was recorded, it is almost impossible to detect if this was a true change in behavior. Furthermore, Saris et al (2003) claim that weight control after weight loss is often harder and the initial weight loss is relatively easier. In light of this, this study did not test weight maintenance.

Another limitation is that physical activity along with a healthy dietary intake is widely suggested. This study sought to test exercise in isolation and not paired with other healthy activities. Whilst physical activity is essential to health, an important question not addressed is what are the barriers that prevent even ordinary, healthy individuals to an inactive lifestyle? Understanding these barriers and their impact may very well turn the tide on obesity. Another limitation of this study was that upon the start of an exercise workout, the participant could not stop due to ill-health or any other reason, such as answering the telephone.If the participant did stop, the workout was not recorded as a successful one. This is unrealistic as people cannot be expected to train like machines.

Lastly, whilst this study relied on the subject, to be honest, and record the number of workouts performed, there is no mechanism in place to detect false information being reported. In conclusion, whilst operant conditioning did work in this study, future research needs to focus on other intervention techniques to help people use exercise as an intervention.At a time when the plague of obesity is engulfing the Western world, it is imperative to utilize the mechanisms of interventions for people to create a healthier and more active lifestyle. Research in the past decade points out the potential importance of

the regular activity of even moderate intensity to physical health and psychological functioning and public health goals acknowledge the need for intervention strategies that can modify the physical activity of millions of Australians.


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