The effect of snack consumption on physical activity: A test of the Compensatory Health Beliefs Model

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The Compensatory Health Beliefs Model proposes that individuals may believe that an unhealthy behaviour can be compensated for by subsequent engagement in a healthy behaviour. The present study aimed to test this proposition, specifically by examining the influence of snack consumption (healthy, unhealthy) on type of activity selected (physical, sedentary). A sample of 100 female undergraduate students (Mage = 20.41 years) were randomly assigned to consume either healthy or unhealthy snacks of comparable nutritional value. To assess potential compensatory behaviour, participants were then given the choice to engage in either a physical activity (exercise on a treadmill) or a sedentary activity (a game on an iPad). Results showed that a significantly higher proportion of participants who consumed the unhealthy snacks selected the physical activity as opposed to the sedentary activity. Perceived healthiness of the snacks, but not perceived caloric intake, mediated the relationship between snack type and activity selection. The findings provide empirical evidence for compensation proposed by the Compensatory Health Beliefs Model, whereby an unhealthy behaviour (unhealthy snack consumption) led to subsequent engagement in a healthy behaviour (physical activity).

Original languageEnglish
Article number104342
Number of pages6
Early online date30 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • Compensatory behaviour
  • Compensatory health beliefs
  • Compensatory health beliefs model
  • Food consumption
  • Perceived healthiness
  • Physical activity


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