Considering only 20.8% of American adults meet current physical activity recommendations, it is important to examine the psychological processes that affect exercise motivation and behavior. Drawing from regulatory fit theory, this study examined how manipulating regulatory focus and reward structures would affect exercise performance, with a specific interest in investigating whether exercise experience would moderate regulatory fit effects. We predicted that regulatory fit effects would appear only for participants with low exercise experience. One hundred and sixty-five young adults completed strength training exercise tasks (i.e., sit-ups, squats, plank, and wall-sit) in regulatory match or mismatch conditions. Consistent with predictions, only participants low in experience in regulatory match conditions exercised more compared with those in regulatory mismatch conditions. Although this is the first study manipulating regulatory fit in a controlled setting to examine exercise behavior, findings suggest that generating regulatory fit could positively influence those low in exercise experience.
Sophie A. Kay is with the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA. Lisa R. Grimm is with The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ.