The role of exercise identity in contributing to self-determined motivation in adherers to exercise referral schemes

Christopher O'Donnell, Lynn Williams, Michael Eynon

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Purpose: Whilst efforts have been made to understand the psychological variables associated with adherence to exercise referral schemes (e.g., Jones et al., 2005; Edmunds, Ntoumanis & Duda, 2007) the in-depth psychological experiences of participants has yet to be investigated. The present study sought to gain a comprehensive insight into the experiences of adherers to exercise referral schemes. In particular, self-determination theory was used as a framework to understand participants’ motivational processes. Methods: A qualitative methodology was employed in which 9 adults (aged 41-67 years; 5 females) who had recently completed an 8-week exercise referral scheme participated in a semi-structured interview concerning their psychological experiences throughout the scheme. Interview transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis, and themes relating to the research question were identified. Results/findings: Two major themes were identified: (1) motivation to exercise and (2) exercise identity. Participants’ motivation to exercise comprised three sub-themes: a) identified regulation, b) intrinsic motivation, and c) no cost. Participants were initially motivated as they viewed exercise as being personally significant and resulted in outcomes valued by the individual (identified regulation) as well as the scheme also being of no cost to them. Once participants started exercising regularly on the scheme their motivation became more intrinsic whereby they enjoyed exercising along with the associated benefits. The exercise identity of participants was activated and attended to throughout the scheme to assist exercise adherence behaviour. Participants’ exercise identity consisted of a number of selfregulatory motives including self-esteem, self-knowledge, self-consistency, self-efficacy, and self-regulation. The role of a participants exercise identity in shaping self-determined motivation is particularly salient given its absence in the related literature thus far and the links to previous findings in exercise settings (e.g., Vlachopoulos, Kaperoni & Moustaka, 2011). Conclusions: The findings provide further understanding of the psychological underpinnings of participants who adhere to exercise referral schemes. Knowledge and application of the themes identified could aid future exercise referral scheme participants in becoming more self-determined to exercise, and consequently adhering to exercise referral schemes to help offset their pre-existing health conditions
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2015
EventInternational Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity Annual Meeting 2015: Advancing Behavior Change Science - Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Jun 20155 Jun 2015


ConferenceInternational Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity Annual Meeting 2015
Abbreviated titleISBNPA 2015
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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