People respond to different types of health messages in persuasive health communication aimed at motivating behavior change. Hence, in human factors design, there is a need to tailor health applications to different user groups rather than change the human characteristics and conditions. However, in the domain of fitness app design, there is limited research on the relationship between users’ perceived motivation of health messages and their social–cognitive beliefs about exercise, and how this relationship is moderated by gender. Knowledge of the gender difference will help in tailoring fitness apps to the two main gender types. Hence, I conducted an empirical study to investigate the types of health messages that are most likely to motivate users and how these messages are related to outcome expectation, self-efficacy, and self-regulation beliefs in the context of exercise modeling. The results of the data analysis show that users are more motivated by illness- and death-related messages compared with obesity-, social stigma-, and financial cost-related messages. Moreover, illness- and death-related messages have a significant relationship with users’ social–cognitive beliefs about bodyweight exercise. These findings indicate that, in the fitness domain, illness- and death-related messages may be employed as a persuasive technique to motivate regular exercise.
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