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Grounded in self-determination theory (SDT), this study had two purposes: (a) examine the associations between intrinsic (relative to extrinsic) exercise goal content and cognitive, affective, and behavioral outcomes; and (b) test the mediating role of psychological need satisfaction in the Exercise Goal Content → Outcomes relationship. Using a sample of 410 adults, hierarchical regression analysis showed relative intrinsic goal content to positively predict physical self-worth, self-reported exercise behavior, psychological well-being, and psychological need satisfaction and negatively predict exercise anxiety. Except for exercise behavior, the predictive utility of relative intrinsic goal content on the dependent variables of interest remained significant after controlling for participants’ relative self-determined exercise motivation. Structural equation modeling analyses showed psychological need satisfaction to partially mediate the effect of relative intrinsic goal content on the outcome variables. Our findings support further investigation of exercise goals commensurate with the goal content perspective advanced in SDT.
Sebire and Standage are with Motivation for Sport, Exercise, and Health (MESH), the School for Health, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom, and Vansteenkiste is with the Department of Psychology, University of Gent, Gent, Belgium.