Preliminary Evaluation of a 1-Day Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Workshop for Increasing Moderate-to-Vigorous Physical Activity in Adults with Overweight or Obesity



Novel strategies to help adults with overweight/obesity increase motivation for becoming active are needed. This single-arm trial aimed to test the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of a 4-h acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)-based workshop intervention for increasing moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) among insufficiently active adults with overweight/obesity.


Participants (N = 41) received a 1-day 4-h ACT workshop followed by weekly e-mails and monthly phone calls for 3 months. The primary outcome was change in accelerometer-measured MVPA minutes/day at 3 and 6 months. Process variables (i.e., autonomous motivation, PA acceptance) through which the ACT intervention was hypothesized to increase MVPA were assessed via questionnaires.


Participants completed 91% of phone calls and 75% of e-mail surveys. Acceptability ratings were > 4.5 out of 5 for “understandable,” “useful,” and “intent-to-use” on all intervention components. Participants on average achieved significant increases in bouted and total MVPA at 3 months that were maintained at 6 months. Participants also reported significant increases in physical activity acceptance and autonomous motivation, the latter of which related to MVPA changes.


Results support the feasibility and acceptability of the ACT workshop intervention for promoting MVPA changes among insufficiently active adults with overweight/obesity. Rigorous testing of this approach as a low-intensity standalone or add-on intervention to increase MVPA is warranted.

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The authors would like to acknowledge Ms. Krystal DeFaria (MS) and Mr. Kevin O’Leary (MS) for their assistance in study implementation and data collection. We thank the study participants for their commitment to this trial.


This study was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (R03 DK114254). Dr. Schumacher is supported by a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (T32 HL076134-11; PI: Wing).

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Correspondence to Jason Lillis.

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Ethical Approval

All procedures were approved by Miriam Hospital IRB and were performed in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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All participants included in the study provided informed consent.

Conflict of Interest

JL, DSB, and LMS report grant funding from NIH.

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Lillis, J., Schumacher, L.M. & Bond, D.S. Preliminary Evaluation of a 1-Day Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Workshop for Increasing Moderate-to-Vigorous Physical Activity in Adults with Overweight or Obesity. Int.J. Behav. Med. (2021).

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  • Acceptance and commitment therapy
  • Motivation
  • Exercise
  • Obesity