Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Kinesiology & Public Health Education


!t is well known that participation in physical activity has important health benefits for most people. However, despite the widespread knowledge of the potential benefits, a large segment of the population remains inactive and for those who do exercise, adherence is a problem. Thus, the study of factors that may improve adherence to physical activity has important implications for public health and wellness. Social psychological influences that have motivational potential arc of obvious interest. One theory of human motivation, self-determination theory (SDT) has shown excellent utility in many applications, including industry, education, and health care. However, review of the literature indicates that it has not been extensively tested in studies of exercise adherence. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine how major constructs from self-determination theory influence adherence in volunteers starting a new exercise program.

This study specifically tested the hypotheses that perceptions of competence at exercise, individual’s regulatory styles (autonomous vs. controlled), and autonomy support from significant others influence adherence to the program and exercise-related affect. Volunteers for a free program at a local fitness center initially completed competence and regulatory style questionnaires. Taking into account the participants preferences and feelings, the lead investigator designed an exercise program for every individual. During the 8-week study, questionnaires were administered to measure perceptions of choice and autonomy support. At the conclusion of the study, adherence v/as measured by assessing the participants' exercise diaries. Exercise-related affect was measured using questionnaires. Data was analyzed using standard statistical procedures to ascertain if self-determination theory was supported in this particular application.

Results were unsuccessful in supporting the notion that the self-determination theory can be applied in predicting exercise adherence. Statistics failed to show a significant relationship between the participants' perceptions of competence at exercise, individual’s regulatory styles, and autonomy support and their adherence to the exercise program. There was, however, a significant relationship between an individual’s autonomous reasons for engaging in an exercise program and intrinsic motivation. In addition, participants who adhered throughout the study indicated a greater vitality at the conclusion of the study.