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We want to become more active, so why are we still failing?

Hamell share the results of a recent behavioural study using wearables

Wearable technology is rapidly becoming part of our social norm. Despite our willingness to purchase wearable activity trackers, evidence suggests they might not help us change our behaviour over the long term. We wanted to investigate why — what are the behavioural barriers and drivers that direct our exercise behaviour?

In November 2016, Hamell launched the self care initiative ‘Walk to Lapland’. Employees and clients used wearable activity trackers to collectively record steps equivalent to the distance from Richmond, London to Lapland, Finland (1852 miles). The event officially ended on Christmas Eve.

Utilising our understanding of the behavioural sciences, Hamell incorporated several behavioural nudges into the Walk, encouraging participants to increase their physical exercise.

To gather real-life insights into participants’ physical exercise behaviour, Hamell designed questionnaires to be completed at the start of the walk and 1 month after the event ended. These were developed using our broad knowledge of the behavioural sciences (psychology, anthropology, sociology and behavioural economics). For example, the theory of planned behaviour (from health psychology) was used to initially assess exercise intentions. Analysis was conducted using an equally robust approach. 

Overall, the Walk was a great success, with participants collectively walking twice the proposed distance. Many of the participants achieved change in their exercise behaviour that lasted well into the New Year, suggesting that they had formed new, healthier habits.

Among those who intended to be more active:

  • 67% reported a sustained increase in their frequency of light exercise per week
  • 67% reported a sustained increase in their frequency of moderate exercise per week
  • 50% reported a sustained increase in their frequency of vigorous exercise per week

What spurred us on? 

Analysis of the post-Walk questionnaires revealed several behavioural factors that helped participants overcome the gap between their intentions and actions. Take a look at our full report for more details.

What held us back?

Respondents reported that the main reason for not achieving more physical activity was an inability to overcome the habit of sedentary working and travel. Even though they had good intentions, it was easier to continue with the default behaviour than to make time to exercise.

In health care, we often see that the reasons for not being able to achieve a sustained behaviour change are far more complex than they initially appear. Not being able to make time for a new behaviour is often a way to post-rationalise failure and might indicate a lack of internal motivation. There are likely to be additional, unconscious, reasons that prevent people from overcoming the intention-action gap and achieving the sustained increases in physical exercise that they desire. These are just some of the aspects that we evaluate when we assess the barriers to any behaviour change.

Click here to access the full report.

Could you use our insights to help you achieve your self care goals?

Hamell have a unique approach to developing evidence based and creative behaviour change initiatives. If you would like to hear more about the work we do, please do contact us at or visit our website.

3rd April 2017