Objective: Self-determination theory is used as a framework for examining the relation between motivation and physical activity. The purpose of this review was to systematically review studies that assessed the association between self-determined motivation and physical activity levels in children and adolescents.
Method: We searched electronic databases in April 2013. Included studies assessed the relation between motivation (as outlined in self-determination theory) and physical activity in children and adolescents.
Results: Forty-six studies (n=15,984 participants) met the inclusion criteria. Meta-analysis indicated that overall levels of self-determined motivation had a weak to moderate, positive associations with physical activity (ρ=.21 to .31). Autonomous forms of motivation (i.e., intrinsic motivation and identified regulation) had moderate, positive associations with physical activity (ρ=.27 to .38), whereas controlled forms of motivation (i.e., introjection and external regulation) had weak, negative associations with physical activity (ρ=-.03 to -.17). Amotivation had a weak, negative association with physical activity (ρ=-.11 to -.21).
Conclusions: Evidence provides some support for self-determination theory tenets. However, there was substantial heterogeneity in most associations and many studies had methodological shortcomings.
Keywords: Adolescent; Children; Leisure time; Physical activity; Physical education; Self-determination theory.
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