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Does Exercise Motivation Predict Engagement in Objectively Assessed Bouts of Moderate-Intensity Exercise?: A Self-Determination Theory Perspective

Martyn Standage, Simon J. Sebire, and Tom Loney

This study examined the utility of motivation as advanced by self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000) in predicting objectively assessed bouts of moderate-intensity exercise behavior. Participants provided data pertaining to their exercise motivation. One week later, participants wore a combined accelerometer and heart rate monitor (Actiheart; Cambridge Neurotechnology Ltd) and 24-hr energy expenditure was estimated for 7 days. After controlling for gender and a combined marker of BMI and waist circumference, results showed autonomous motivation to positively predict moderate-intensity exercise bouts of ≥10 min, ≥20 min, and an accumulation needed to meet public health recommendations for moderate-intensity activity (i.e., ACSM/AHA guidelines). The present findings add bouts of objectively assessed exercise behavior to the growing body of literature that documents the adaptive consequences of engaging in exercise for autonomous reasons. Implications for practice and future work are discussed.

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Development and Validation of the Goal Content for Exercise Questionnaire

Simon J. Sebire, Martyn Standage, and Maarten Vansteenkiste

Self-determination theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 2000) proposes that intrinsic, relative to extrinsic, goal content is a critical predictor of the quality of an individual’s behavior and psychological well-being. Through three studies, we developed and psychometrically tested a measure of intrinsic and extrinsic goal content in the exercise context: the Goal Content for Exercise Questionnaire (GCEQ). In adults, exploratory (N = 354; Study 1) and confrmatory factor analyses (N = 312; Study 2) supported a 20-item solution consisting of 5 lower order factors (i.e., social affliation, health management, skill development, image and social recognition) that could be subsumed within a 2-factor higher order structure (i.e., intrinsic and extrinsic). Evidence for external validity, temporal stability, gender invariance, and internal consistency of the GCEQ was found. An independent sample (N = 475; Study 3) provided further support for the lower order structure of the GCEQ and some support for the higher order structure. The GCEQ was supported as a measure of exercise-based goal content, which may help understand how intrinsic and extrinsic goals can motivate exercise behavior.

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Examining Intrinsic versus Extrinsic Exercise Goals: Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Outcomes

Simon J. Sebire, Martyn Standage, and Maarten Vansteenkiste

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.

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Predicting Objectively Assessed Physical Activity From the Content and Regulation of Exercise Goals: Evidence for a Mediational Model

Simon J. Sebire, Martyn Standage, and Maarten Vansteenkiste

Grounded in self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000), the purpose of this work was to examine effects of the content and motivation of adults’ exercise goals on objectively assessed moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). After reporting the content and motivation of their exercise goals, 101 adult participants (M age = 38.79 years; SD = 11.5) wore an ActiGraph (GT1M) accelerometer for seven days. Accelerometer data were analyzed to provide estimates of engagement in MVPA and bouts of physical activity. Goal content did not directly predict behavioral engagement; however, mediation analysis revealed that goal content predicted behavior via autonomous exercise motivation. Specifically, intrinsic versus extrinsic goals for exercise had a positive indirect effect on average daily MVPA, average daily MVPA accumulated in 10-min bouts and the number of days on which participants performed 30 or more minutes of MVPA through autonomous motivation. These results support a motivational sequence in which intrinsic versus extrinsic exercise goals influence physical activity behavior because such goals are associated with more autonomous forms of exercise motivation.

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“Coveting Thy Neighbour’s Legs”: A Qualitative Study of Exercisers’ Experiences of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Goal Pursuit

Simon J. Sebire, Martyn Standage, Fiona B. Gillison, and Maarten Vansteenkiste

Goals are central to exercise motivation, although not all goals (e.g., health vs. appearance goals) are equally psychologically or behaviorally adaptive. Within goal content theory (Vansteenkiste, Niemiec, & Soenens, 2010), goals are adaptive to the extent to which they satisfy psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. However, little is known about what exercisers pursuing different goals are feeling, doing, thinking, and paying attention to that may help to explain the association between goal contents and need satisfaction. Using semistructured interviews and interpretative phenomenological analysis, we explored experiences of exercise among 11 adult exercisers who reported pursuing either predominantly intrinsic or extrinsic goals. Four themes emerged: (a) observation of others and resulting emotions, (b) goal expectations and time perspective, (c) markers of progress and (d) reactions to (lack of) goal achievement. Intrinsic and extrinsic goal pursuers reported divergent experiences within these four domains. The findings illuminate potential mechanisms by which different goals may influence psychological and behavioral outcomes in the exercise context.

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Delivery and Receipt of a Self-Determination-Theory-Based Extracurricular Physical Activity Intervention: Exploring Theoretical Fidelity in Action 3:30

Simon J. Sebire, Mark J. Edwards, Kenneth R. Fox, Ben Davies, Kathryn Banfield, Lesley Wood, and Russell Jago

The implementation, fidelity, and receipt of a self-determination-theory-based after-school physical activity intervention (Action 3:30) delivered by teaching assistants (TAs) was examined using a mixed-methods process evaluation. Physical activity motivation and need satisfaction were reported by 539 participants at baseline, the end of intervention, and 4-month follow-up. Pupil- and TA-reported autonomy-support and teaching efficacy were collected alongside interviews with 18 TAs and focus groups with 60 participants. Among intervention boys there were small increases in identified, introjected, and external motivation and no differences in need satisfaction. Among girls, intrinsic and identified motivation and autonomy and relatedness were lower in the intervention group. Qualitative evidence for fidelity was moderate, and boys reported greater need satisfaction than girls. TAs provided greater structure than involvement or autonomy-support and felt least efficacious when facing school-based challenges. The findings highlight the refinements needed to enhance theoretical fidelity and intervention effectiveness for boys and girls.

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The Digest

Jennifer Brunet, Lori Dithurbide, Shilpa Dogra, Kim Gammage, Mary Jung, Lindsay Kipp, Tara-Leigh McHugh, Simon Sebire, Katherine Tamminen, and Kathleen Wilson

Edited by Christopher Shields

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The Digest

Anne Cox, Kim Gammage, Fiona Gillison, Tara-Leigh McHugh, Catherine Sabiston, Simon Sebire, Chris Shields, Cheryl Stuntz, Mark Uphill, and Rebecca Zakrajsek

Edited by Meghan McDonough

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The Digest

Christopher Shields, Jennifer Brunet, Lori Dithurbide, Shilpa Dogra, Kim Gammage, Mary Jung, Tara-Leigh McHugh, Simon Sebire, Cheryl Stuntz, Katherine Tamminen, and Kathleen Wilson

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The Digest

Jennifer Brunet, Lori Dithurbide, Shilpa Dogra, Kim Gammage, Fiona Gillison, Tara-Leigh McHugh, Simon Sebire, Cheryl Stuntz, Katherine Tamminen, and Kathleen Wilson

Edited by Christopher Shields