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Self-determination theory

By: Jennie Hancox et al

Price: € 9.20 / € 6.90 (Members price)

It is well established that regular physical activity and exercise participation are associated with a range of physical health benefits (e.g. reduced risks of cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes and psychological health benefits (e.g. enhanced mental health and quality of life. However, as it is well-recognised, the majority of adults in the Western world do not engage in sufficient levels of either lifestyle physical activity or structured exercise to accrue such benefits. Of those who begin an exercise programme approximately 50% drop out within the first six months. 

Further, a vast proportion of exercisers experience numerous relapses, defined as not exercising for three months or more. Many barriers (whether perceived or real) are encountered in peoples’ quest to become and stay physically active including: ‘a lack of time’, ‘lack of motivation’ and other such reasons that make exercising regularly challenging. Low levels of exercise adherence are therefore problematicbecause improvements in physical and psychological health can only be achievedwith sustained exercise participation. 

Consequently, over the past few decades, researchers have looked extensively at the motivational determinants of exercise adherence. Key factors which have shown promise in predicting exercise adoption include positive behavioural intentions, positive attitudes to exercise, observing (similar) others exercising, self-confidence, and having self-assurance to overcome barriers to exercise. 

Thus, if an individual has intentions to exercise, thinks that exercising will be beneficial for his/her health, has friends who work out regularly at the local gym, and feels confident that he/she can master exercise and overcome any barriers then they are more to likely to start exercising. However, there is less and mixed evidence regarding how well these factors lead to adherence over a longer term. In the past decade or so there has been a shift in orientation, with some researchers suggesting that it is the quality rather than the quantity of motivation which determines exercise adherence.

In this Ebook chapter (4) of the book EuropeActive's Essentials of Motivation and Behaviour Change you learn about the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) and the many practical implications for fitness, health and sport professionals.