Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


46th Annual Convention; Washington DC; 2020

Event Details

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Symposium #225
CE Offered: BACB
Recent Applications of Behavior Analysis to Physical Activity
Sunday, May 24, 2020
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level 1, Salon A
Area: CBM/CSS; Domain: Translational
Chair: Stephanie L. Kincaid (Rollins College)
Discussant: Carole M. Van Camp (University of North Carolina Wilmington)
CE Instructor: Carole M. Van Camp, Ph.D.

Physical activity is topography of behavior that has numerous demonstrated benefits contributing to overall health and wellbeing for individuals of all ages. However, problematic trends with respect to physical activity have recently been reported on a worldwide scale (Guthold, Stevens, Riley, & Bull, 2018). Given the readily apparent social significance of this behavior, it is perhaps unsurprising that a variety of behavior-analytic techniques have been explored for understanding, and promoting, physical activity. This symposium includes recent investigations in physical activity assessment and intervention. Studies include applications of behavior analysis to a variety of physical activity topographies (running, swimming, and playground time) and populations (children and adults). Three studies are aimed at identifying variables that contribute to, or maintain, physical activity by using surveys, functional analysis (FA), and literature review. Two studies evaluated interventions to increase physical activity, including differential reinforcement (DR) based on the results of an FA, and behavioral skills training (BST).

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): BST, exercise, functional analysis, physical activity
Target Audience:

Practicing behavior analysts, applied behavior analysis researchers or students with an interest in health or physical activity.

Learning Objectives: 1. Discuss the correspondence between objective and self-report measures of physical activity. 2. Compare and contrast the survey and functional analysis methods of identifying variables that maintain or contribute to physical activity. 3. Identify barriers to assessment and treatment of physical activity with children and adults. 4. Describe two intervention strategies for increasing physical activity in applied settings.
Music's Effects on Running: A Behavior Analytic Review of the Psychological Research
(Service Delivery)
JENNIFER L. COOK (University of South Florida), Raymond G. Miltenberger (University of South Florida)
Abstract: While the sports psychology literature offers an abundance of studies on the effects of music on running, there have been no behavior analytic contributions. Promoting running may be an important area to consider in health and exercise because individuals who consistently run for exercise have a 29 to 50% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality than nonrunners (Lee et al., 2014). The extant literature suggests listening to preferred music while running may have positive effects on performance for, or adherence to, a running routine (e.g., Karageorghis, & Priest, 2012b). However, findings on music’s effects on running have been inconclusive across this literature. This may be due, in part, to the pervasive approach taken by literature reviews to lump together outcomes from studies assessing the effects of music for any exercise modality, not just running. Another issue may be the practice of primarily basing the conclusions on self-report measures. Thus, this review evaluated the correspondence between objective and self-report results, and focused on the objective dependent variables as the primary measure for change to re-evaluate the conclusions of music’s effects on running.
The Peculiarities of Runners: A Survey of Runners’ Behavior and Factors Influencing Running
(Applied Research)
SHREEYA DESHMUKH (USF), Jennifer L. Cook (University of South Florida), Raymond G. Miltenberger (University of South Florida), Cynthia P. Livingston (University of North Florida), Jeremy Buttice (University of South Florida)
Abstract: While there is a plethora of psychology research examining the effects of music on running, no study to date has considered a survey of runners’ current behaviors. That is, there is no information about the potential antecedents or consequences that maintain the ongoing running routines, the type of devices they use, common running modalities (e.g., indoor, outdoor, track, treadmill), and the reasons for their choices and habits (how they plan to run and what motivates them or creates challenges for them). This online survey was completed by 555 current runners, aged 18 to 72. The purpose of this survey was to (a) gather information about what most runners commonly do to formulate hypothesis on the possible mechanisms that maintain running, and (b) further use that information to inform methodology decisions for subsequent studies evaluating effects of music on running. Results of the survey elucidated several potentially important commonalities, such as age ranges, preferred auditory sources, devices, and environments. These results are at odds with many of the variables incorporated in research related to running. Future research should consider some of these factors that have been shown to be already embedded within the running community.
A Functional Analysis of Physical Activity in Children with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
(Applied Research)
ALEXANDRA KNERR (Rollins College), Stephanie L. Kincaid (Rollins College)
Abstract: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends children get 60 min of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day. However, it is estimated that zero to 42% of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities meet these guidelines. Determining the function may lead to more effective interventions for increasing physical activity levels in these children. The present study adapted the methods of Larson, Normand, Morley, and Miller (2014) to conduct a functional analysis of physical activity in children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For each subject, rates of physical activity were measured using pedometers in five conditions: Verbal attention, adult interaction, music, ignore, and control. This multi-element functional analysis was embedded within a treatment analysis in an attempt to increase the child’s rate of physical activity during their typical playground time. The findings will be compared with those of physical activity functional analyses conducted with other populations. Practical applications and potential avenues for future research will also be discussed.
The Effects of Behavioral Skills Training on the Acquisition of Swimming Skills
(Applied Research)
Abstract: Childhood obesity is a growing public health concern. Studies have suggested that children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have a prevalence of obesity higher than that of the general population (Hill, Zuckerman, and Fombonne, 2015). Specific interventions to increase physical activity in this population are needed to promote a more active lifestyle. The current study evaluated the effects of Behavior Skills Training (BST) on the acquisition of aquatic skills needed to swim laps for three participants diagnosed with ASD. Prior to implementation of BST, each participant was evaluated using the American Red Cross Learn-to-Swim Level 4 criteria. Skills selected were those needed to swim laps for exercise. Baseline data showed that targeted skills were 0% correct. Treatment was evaluated using a multiple baseline across skills. Results showed that the percentage correct increased for all skills following BST. These results suggest that BST is a viable approach for teaching swimming as exercise to children with ASD.



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