Goals Matter: Exercising for Well-Being But Not Health or Appearance Predicts Future Exercise Among Parents

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background: Many parents are insufficiently active. Further research is needed to understand the goals that drive sustained exercise participation among parents. The purpose of this study was to use self-determination theory derived constructs to examine the relationship between parents’ exercise goals and their autonomous motivation, controlled motivation, and exercise behavior across 1 year. Methods: Mothers (n = 226) and fathers (n = 70) of children less than 16 years completed the Exercise Motivations Inventory-2 and, 1 year later, the Behavioral Regulation in Exercise Questionnaire-2 and Godin Leisure-Time Exercise Questionnaire. Linear mixed effects models were used to examine the longitudinal relationships between exercise goals and autonomous motivation, controlled motivation, and leisure-time exercise. Results: All goals except weight management were significantly associated with autonomous motivation, whereas only weight and appearance goals predicted controlled motivation. Exercising for stress management and revitalization, but not health- or appearance-related goals, was significantly related to exercise behavior over 1 year. Conclusions: Only goals related to immediate affective outcomes were associated with both autonomous motivation and exercise behavior over time. These findings support recent calls to “rebrand exercise” as a means to improve daily well-being. Such goals may drive parents to prioritize exercise because they value the immediate benefits it provides.

Mailey is with the Department of Kinesiology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS. Dlugonski is with the Department of Kinesiology, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC. Hsu is with the Department of Statistics, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS. Segar is with Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.

Mailey (emailey@ksu.edu) is corresponding author.

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