The Role of Self-Regulation in the Effect of Self-Tracking of Physical Activity and Weight on BMI

Thea J.M. Kooiman*, Arie Dijkstra, Adriaan Kooy, Aafje Dotinga, Cees P. van der Schans, Martijn de Groot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Self-tracking of health may have positive effects on lifestyle behavior and weight loss; however, not much is known about the role of psychological processes in this effect. The purpose of this study was to assess to what extent a change in self-regulation capabilities can explain weight loss after 4 and 12 months of self-tracking physical activity and weight. An explorative cohort study was conducted with measurements at baseline (T0), 4 months (T1), and 12 months (T2). Healthy adult volunteers (N = 80) were included and provided with a digital weight scale and an activity tracker. Personal characteristics as well as the intention to change weight and physical activity were measured at T0. Self-regulation capabilities (goal orientation, self-direction, decision making, and impulse control) were measured with the Self-Regulation Questionnaire at T0, T1, and T2, together with body weight. At T0, all four dimensions of self-regulation were negatively related to BMI (p <.01). At T1, weight significantly declined compared to T0 (− 2.0 kg/− 0.64 kg/m2, p <.001). At T2, this weight loss was maintained (− 1.8 kg/− 0.57 kg/m2, p <.01). At T1, intention to lose weight, self-weighing frequency, and an increase in goal orientation explained weight loss. At T2, an increase in decision making explained weight loss. Incremental self-regulation capabilities may explain weight loss after engaging in self-tracking of physical activity and weight. Future research should focus on exploring effective ways to further enhance self-regulation when using self-tracking technology and to assess the impact of different types of self-regulation stimuli on weight loss.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-214
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Technology in Behavioral Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun-2020


  • Physical activity
  • Self-regulation
  • Self-tracking
  • Self-weighing
  • Weight loss

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