The role of motives in exercise participation

Psychol Health. 2008;23(7):807-28. doi: 10.1080/08870440701405704.


The aim was to better understand the role of motives in exercise participation. It was hypothesised that motives influence exercise participation by influencing behavioural regulation, and that motives are themselves influenced by personality traits. Data were from a cross-sectional questionnaire survey of 252 office workers, mean age 40 years. Analysis was by structural equation modelling. According to the final model, appearance/weight motive increased external regulation, thereby reducing participation, and also increased introjected regulation. Health/fitness motive increased identified regulation, thereby increasing participation. Social engagement motive increased intrinsic regulation. Neuroticism increased appearance/weight motive, openness increased health/fitness motive, and conscientiousness, without affecting motives, reduced external and introjected regulation. It is inferred that exercise promotion programmes, without denigrating appearance/weight motive, should encourage other motives more conducive to autonomous motivation.

Keywords: Physical exercise; behavioural regulation; motivation; participation motives; personality; self-determination.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities / psychology*
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Motivation*