Images of exercising: Exploring the links between exercise imagery use, autonomous and controlled motivation to exercise, and exercise intention and behavior

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Objectives: In the present study, we tested a model examining the relationships between exercise imagery use, motivational regulations for exercise engagement, intention to exercise, and self-reported exercise behavior. This work represents an initial attempt to examine relationships between a new type of exercise imagery (enjoyment imagery) and motivational regulations for exercise. Design: Cross-sectional. Method: Exercisers with a mean age of 40.29 years (SD = 13.29; 177 female, 141 male) completed measures of the targeted variables. Results: Structural equation modeling analyses revealed direct and indirect (via motivational regulations) links between imagery and exercise-related outcomes. Technique and enjoyment imagery were positively related to autonomous motivation. Conversely, appearance imagery was positively associated with controlled motivation. Direct relationships were evidenced between energy imagery and self-reported exercise behavior, and between appearance imagery and intention to exercise. Conclusions: The potential motivational functions served by different exercise imagery types are discussed, and the inclusion of enjoyment imagery in future exercise imagery research is recommended. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-141
Number of pages9
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2012


  • Self-regulatory strategies, Motivation, Imagery, Exercise