Are There “Healthy” and “Unhealthy” Reasons for Exercise? Examining Individual Differences in Exercise Motivations Using the Function of Exercise Scale

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Patricia Marten DiBartolo Smith College

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Linda Lin Emmanuel College

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Simone Montoya Smith College

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Heather Neal Smith College

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Carey Shaffer Smith College

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This study reports the psychometric development of a measure to assess individual differences in exercise motivations using a functionalist strategy (Snyder & Cantor, 1997). Factor analyses revealed two subscales for the newly developed Function of Exercise Scale (FES): Weight and Appearance (WA), and Health and Enjoyment (HE). FES-HE scores correlated with better psychological well-being and predicted prospectively monitored as well as concurrently and longitudinally assessed exercise behavior. FES-HE scores also correlated with lower pulse, systolic blood pressure, and salivary cortisol readings, indicating its association with better physical health. In contrast, FES-WA scores correlated with greater depressive and eating disorder symptoms, as well as lower self-esteem, and predicted the later emergence of eating disorder, but not depressive, symptoms. FES-WA scores failed to show a relationship with measures of physical well-being, including exercise engagement and vital sign data. Overall, the FES appears to hold promise as a succinct and psychometrically sound heuristic for meaningfully relating exercise motivations to important indices of both physical and psychological well-being.

DiBartolo, Montoya, Neal, and Shaffer are with Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063. E-mail: pdibarto@science.smith.edu. Lin is with Emmanuel College, Boston, MA 02115.

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