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This text is designed to introduce students to the theory and application of health and exercise psychology, especially in the context of how people form and change health behaviors. The first section presents foundational knowledge essential for understanding associations between behavior and health. Chapter 1 situates the book’s interdisciplinary approach in relation to the fields of psychology, exercise science, and health science and briefly reviews the important influence that a variety of health behaviors have on the development of the most-common chronic diseases. Chapter 1 also discusses how researchers and professionals use the scientific method to develop theories and models about health, behavior, and behavior change. Chapter 2 summarizes the physiological systems that play important roles in mind–body communication and in the maintenance of health. Chapter 3 introduces students to the psychophysiological effects of physical activity. The physical and psychological benefits of regular physical activity can be motivational for people embarking on behavior-change programs.

The second section explores the psychology of health behavior and behavior change. Chapter 4 presents the behavior-change models that have proven to be most applicable for changing health behaviors, along with an exploration of the nature of motivation for behavior change. Chapter 5 discusses some basic skills that can help health and fitness professionals move from a directive style of communicating with clients to more of a guiding style that enables clients to access the meaningful motivation required to sustain lasting change. Chapter 5 also describes the behavior-change skills shown to be most effective for people transforming an intention to change a behavior into actual lifestyle change. Because feelings of stress and the stress response are such an intricate part of health, motivation, and behavior, Chapter 6 goes into some detail on the nature of stress, the stress response, and coping. This chapter explores the relationship between stress and health and concludes with current ideas about the qualities that enhance people’s ability to cope effectively with stress and to resist the negative health effects associated with excess stress. No health psychology text would be complete without a discussion of the roles played by culture and life stage in the formation of health behaviors and in the behavior-change process. Chapter 7 encourages students to consider the diversity of human experience and the special issues that influence the context of behavior because of people’s cultural backgrounds and life stage.

The last section of this book examines behavior change for specific applications. Chapter 8 explores behavior-change strategies for increasing exercise adherence. Chapter 9 discusses nutrition and dietary change, focusing on behavior-change strategies for improving eating behaviors. Chapter 10 takes on issues related to weight control, especially behavior-change recommendations for preventing obesity and promoting healthy body composition. Chapter 11 presents perspectives on changing negative health behaviors, including both substance-use disorders and behavioral addictions. Disordered eating and pathogenic weightcontrol measures are discussed in this context. Chapter 12 looks at behavior change from a clinical perspective and the issues important to consider when trying to understand and apply behavior change theory in a clinical setting. It is likely that health and fitness professionals will work with all kinds of people throughout their careers, including people coping with chronic illness and/or injury. The information in Chapter 12 echoes the more-theoretical links between behavior and chronic illness discussed in Chapter 1 and so brings the book full circle to the big picture of behavior and health.


This textbook strives to connect theoretical knowledge to practical applications, in order to help students find the theoretical material interesting, understandable, and relevant. Several special features in each chapter are designed to enhance student learning, including the following:

  • Motivating Change Sections: Several Motivating Change application sections are strategically placed throughout each chapter. These summarize applications useful to the health and fitness professional for the theoretical material presented in the chapter. The Motivating Change sections help students develop a context for the chapter information and see how the theoretical material is important and relevant.

  • What’s the Evidence? Each chapter presents a brief summary of a research study that examines important chapter concepts. This feature gives students a critical perspective on the link between research and theory, with an eye to understanding the phrase “evidence-based practice.”

  • Game Changers: The Game Changers box features important historical figures in the exercise and health sciences whose work has changed the way that experts and students alike view the subject matter in these fields. This feature not only provides an interesting historical context in diverse areas, but it also illustrates the nature of model building in science and how researchers can radically transform thinking on their topics of expertise.

  • Health Psychology at Work: This feature consists of essays from health and fitness professionals who are actively using chapter material in their work. Professionals featured include personal trainers, exercise and yoga instructors, educators, psychotherapists, a physical therapist, a youth sport coach, a wilderness therapy guide, and a university employee-wellness program director. Providing a context for the use of chapter concepts will hopefully motivate students considering careers in the helping professions to see that learning the material will be relevant for their future work and employment opportunities.

  • Health Psychology and You: These boxes feature activities that invite student participation to encourage students to see chapter concepts in personally relevant and interesting ways.

  • Critical Thinking Questions: Several questions at the end of each chapter encourage students to apply chapter material in new ways to deepen their understanding of chapter material and the issues to which the material applies.

  • Running Scenario: Each chapter opens with a fictitious but plausible scenario featuring one or more young health and fitness professionals who face several situations throughout the chapter that provoke questions about the application of chapter material. This feature is designed to encourage student thinking and discussion of real-life situations where chapter concepts might provide helpful guidance.

Additional Online Features at DavisPlus

Additional learning-support features are available at the F.A. Davis Online Resource Center, including the following:

  • Sample Multiple-Choice Questions: These practice questions help students review their knowledge and prepare for quizzes and exams.

  • Video Scenarios: These scenarios present typical situations encountered by health and fitness professionals. Students view the first portion of the scenario in which a challenge related to chapter concepts is presented. Students are encouraged to imagine themselves as the professional in the scenario situations and think about how they might respond. After watching the first part of the scenario, students are presented with a decision-point multiple-choice question to direct student thinking and discussion and encourage students to explore how they might deal with the situation. Students then view one possible resolution to the scenario. Four additional multiple choice questions helps students explore how the scenario is related to chapter concepts.

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