This study aimed to extend recent work on the effects of goal types in physical activity (PA; Swann, Hooper et al., 2020) by comparing the effects of SMART, open, and do-your-best (DYB) goals on performance and psychological responses in active and insufficiently active adults in a walking task.
It is common practice in exercise and physical activity settings to adopt a SMART approach (setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound goals), which is widely recommended by leading health organisations. However, more recent scrutiny of the theoretical basis for such practices has been recently questioned for its lack of consideration of task complexity and stages of learning.
Indeed, if an individual is in the early stages of learning to be physically active, and physical activity can be considered complex for such an individual, then the SMART approach may be less effective. More recently, open goals (e.g., “see how well you can do”) have been evidenced as beneficial for physical activity promotion for these individuals.
This research extends this evidence by examining the use of open goals, and comparing other goal types previously adopted in this research area, to determine if insufficiently active and active individuals respond differently to a range of psychological variables during a walking talk.
The results indicated that insufficiently active individuals experienced significantly higher levels of pleasure, higher levels of enjoyment, decreased perceptions of effort and performed more favourably in the open goal condition compared to the active group. Conversely, the active group experienced significantly higher levels of pleasure, higher levels of enjoyment and performed more favourably in the SMART goal condition compared to the insufficiently active group.
These results support theoretical predictions in goal setting practices based on task complexity and stages of learning, and indicate that open goals may be more beneficial for the purposes of physical activity promotion.
University of Lincoln, College of Social Science Research
Rebecca M. Hawkins, University of Lincoln , School of Sport and Exercise
Lee Crust, University of Lincoln , School of Sport and Exercise
Christian Swann, Southern Cross University Centre for Athlete Development, Experience & Performance
Patricia C.Jackman, University of Lincoln , School of Sport and Exercise