A longitudinal examination of self-determination theory in participants of a UK based exercise on referral program

Peter Rouse, Joan Duda, Nikolaos Ntoumanis, Catherine Jolly, Geoffrey C. Williams

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Self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000) has been frequently implemented as a framework to examine the mechanisms that underpin change in a variety of health behaviors. This study aimed to explore the mechanisms responsible for mental health, physical activity intentions and subsequent behavior by testing an SDT based motivational model in an exercise setting. Participants (n = 145) who were recruited by health and fitness advisors (H&FA) across a major UK city, were individuals who completed a 3 month exercise on referral program (ER). The majority of participants were middle aged (M = 53.70 +/– 12.99 years), female (73%), overweight or obese (M BMI = 33.21 SD = 6.70), and 20% could be considered depressed. Data were collected at three time points; T1 (baseline), T2 (post ER program) and T3 (3 months after exiting the ER program). All psychological questionnaires revealed good psychometric properties (alpha > .70). A re-specified structural equation model revealed good fit to the data: chi^2 (181) = 222.36, CFI = .98; NNFI = .98, RMSEA = .04 (90% CI, .02-.06) and SRMR = .06. The model indicates that autonomous motivation at T1 (RAI) did not predict the corresponding T2 RAI. However, the RAI (T1) revealed a nonhypothesized positive relationship with need satisfaction at T2. Post-program perceptions of H&FA autonomy support (T2) positively predicted need satisfaction (T2) which in turn predicted change in the RAI. Further, physical activity intentions (T2) were positively predicted by need satisfaction, but not by changes in the RAI. Finally, physical activity intentions positively predicted physical activity behavior at T3 and changes in the RAI were negatively associated with depressive symptoms (T3). Our results provide longitudinal support for an SDT-based motivational sequence and indicate that psychological need satisfaction may be a mechanism that underpins physical activity behavior change and mental health. Findings have important implications for training H&FAs in how to provide effective environmental support to satisfy the basic needs in ER participants
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215
JournalJournal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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