Goal setting and achievement for walking: A series of N-of-1 digital interventions.

Guillaume Chevance, Dario Baretta, Natalie Golaszewski, Michelle Takemoto, Sama Shrestha, Sonia Jain, Daniel E. Rivera, Predrag Klasnja, Eric Hekler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Objective: Despite evidence that goal setting is valuable for physical activity promotion, recent studies highlighted a potential oversimplification in the application of this behavior change technique. While more difficult performance goals might trigger higher physical activity levels, higher performance goals might concurrently be more difficult to achieve, which could reduce long-term motivation. This study examined (a) the association between performance goal difficulty and physical activity and (b) the association between performance goal difficulty and goal achievement. Method: This study used data from an e-Health intervention among inactive overweight adults (n = 20). The study duration included a 2-week baseline period and an intervention phase of 80 days. During the intervention, participants received a daily step goal experimentally manipulated by taking participants’ baseline physical activity median (i.e., number of steps) multiplied by a pseudorandom factor ranging from 1 to 2.6. A continuous measure of goal achievement was inferred for each day by dividing the daily number of steps by the goal prescribed that day. Linear and generalized additive models were fit for each participant. Results: The results confirm that, for a majority of the participants involved in the study, performance goal difficulty was positively and significantly associated with physical activity (n = 14), but, concurrently, negatively and significantly associated with goal achievement (n = 19). These associations were mainly linear. Conclusion: At the daily level, setting a higher physical activity goal leads to engaging in higher physical activity levels, but concurrently lower goal achievement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-39
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • e-health
  • goal achievement
  • goal difficulty
  • idiographic
  • physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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