2013. Vol.4, No.12, 917-923
Published Online December 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/psych) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/psych.2013.412132
Open Access 917
Psychological Factors Influencing Exercise Adherence
Sarah S. Kohlstedt, Carol S. Weissbrod, Anna M. Colangelo, Michele M. Carter
The American University, Washington, D.C., USA
Received September 20th, 2013; revised October 21st, 2013; accepted November 18th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Sarah S. Kohlstedt et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Com-
mons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, pro-
vided the original work is properly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons Attribution License all Copy-
rights © 2013 are reserved for SCIRP and the owner of the intellectual property Sarah S. Kohlstedt et al. All
Copyright © 2013 are guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
Social pressures focusing on health and physical attractiveness have been used to promote exercise among
women (Prichard & Tiggemann, 2008). However, research has shown that motives driven by external
sources result in decreased exercise participation (Deci & Ryan, 1985). The current study examined dif-
ferences in motivation, self-efficacy, and mood between 64 exercise adherent and non-adherent women
over four weeks. Women who were non-adherent to their exercise goals were more likely to report exter-
nal motives, specifically body and health related motives. At the initial measurement, adherents reported
significantly lower self-efficacy, positive affect, and life satisfaction compared to non-adherents. How-
ever, after the four weeks, adherents’ self-reports indicated a significant increase in these variables com-
pared to no change in non-adherents’ self-reports.
Keywords: Gender; Motivation; Physical Self-Efficacy; Self-Determination; Exercise
Physical inactivity remains a serious issue in our society,
particularly for women. Despite continued health education,
more than 60% of American women do not engage in recom-
mended levels of physical activity, and more than 25% are
completely sedentary (Center for Disease Control, 2010).
Among individuals who do initiate exercise programs, ap-
proximately half drop out during the first six months (Dishman,
1990; Sallis et al., 1992). The importance of persistence in ex-
ercise, coupled with the low numbers of women who are per-
sistent in exercise, suggests a need to determine what differen-
tiates women who are adherent and non-adherent to physical
activity. Research has demonstrated that social pressures for
health and physical attractiveness may be used to promote ex-
ercise and fitness for women (Blaine & McElroy, 2002; Prich-
ard & Tiggemann, 2008); however, while this external motiva-
tion may help initiate exercise, research findings have shown a
negative association with persistence (Teixeira et al., 2006;
Young et al., 2001). The current study sought to determine if
female participants who adhered to their exercise goal over a
four-week period differed in their expressed motivation for
exercise from female participants who did not adhere to their
goal. In addition, the study explored differences between the
two groups in physical self-efficacy, positive affect, and satis-
faction with life.
The theory of self-determination (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 1985)
offers an explanation for differences in adherence to exercise.
SDT is based on the assumption that the choices an individual
makes are driven by self-determined motives and/or externally
determined motives. Typically, when exercise goals are self-
determined, they reflect intrinsic motivation based on enjoy-
ment, competence, and social interaction. Research has demon-
strated that this kind of motivation is correlated with exercise
intentions and exercise adherence, particularly in women (Cen-
ters for Disease Control, 2010; Edmunds et al., 2007; Izquier-
do-Porrera et al., 2002; Prichard & Tiggemann, 2008; Teixera
et al., 2006; Wankel, 1993; Wilson & Rodgers, 2004). When
goals are not self-determined, but rather, introjected or con-
trolled, they reflect motivation that is driven by external sources;
in general, research findings have demonstrated that this kind of
motivation undermines the development of autonomy, and is
therefore not optimal for sustaining an intentional physical
activity routine (Ryan & Deci, 2000; Ryan et al., 1997; Segar et
al., 2006). Presumably, when individuals feel pressured to ex-
ercise, they lack the enjoyment and inner motivation to con-
tinue, causing them to discontinue their behavior.
Women often report that their motivation to exercise is based
on body-related concerns (Anderson, 2003; Berman et al., 2005;
Finkenberg et al., 1994; Gill & Overdorf, 1994; Markland &
Ingledew, 2007; Tiggemann & Williamson, 2000), which re-
flect an external or interjected pressure. For example, Berman
and colleagues (2005) reported that women endorsed weight
and body related reasons for exercise, and though they did ex-
ercise, they continued to experience body dissatisfaction, pre-
occupation with weight, and poor emotional well-being. Im-
portantly, Kilpatrick, Hebert, and Bartholomew (2005) suggest
that women report weight management as a motivation for
exercise more often than do men, which may make them par-
ticularly susceptible to exercise non-adherence.
In addition to gender differences, the type of motivation also
seems to vary by a woman’s age group. Scharff, Homan, Kreu-
S. S. KOHLSTEDT ET AL.
ter, and Brennan (1999) found that younger women were more
likely to report weight management as their primary motivation
for being physically active while older women were more likely
to indicate health as their main motivation. Different results
based on age group were also noted in Tiggemann and Wil-
liamson (2000). Their data supported a positive relationship
between exercise engagement and psychological well-being
among older women, while among younger women there was
an inverse relationship between exercise and well-being.
Results from other research have indicated that body-related
motives are not only associated with social physique anxiety,
depression, anxiety, reduced self-esteem, and body dissatisfac-
tion (Frederick & Morrison, 1996; Prichard & Tiggemann,
2008; Strelan et al., 2003), but also with less exercise participa-
tion (Segar et al., 2006; Segar et al., 2008). It seems that body-
related motives may decrease women’s sense of autonomy and
self-determination, giving rise to obligatory exercise, lack of
psychological benefits (Berman et al., 2005; Markland & In-
gledew, 2007), and decreased motivation (Anderson, 2003;
Deci & Ryan, 1985). Women may find that when exercise is
motivated by, or results in, a focus on their physical appearance,
they feel less inclined to continue. Indeed, Segar et al. (2006;
2008; 2010) demonstrated that women whose motives and
goals centered on weight loss, health, and/or body-shape par-
ticipated in less physical activity than women whose motives
were not body-related. Stelan et al. (2003) supported this con-
clusion from the opposite point of view: women who reported
exercising for enjoyment and mood enhancement tended to
report greater body satisfaction, body esteem, and self-esteem.
Researchers have made the important distinction that while
body-motives may be helpful in terms of exercise initiation and
short-term exercise goals, increased intrinsic motivation is nec-
essary to sustain long-term exercise and weight loss (Silva,
Markland, et al., 2010; Stephan, Boiche, & Scanff, 2010;
Teixeira et al., 2006; Young et al., 2001). Silva, Markland, et al.
(2010), for example, found a positive relationship between
intrinsic motivation and moderate and vigorous physical activ-
ity in overweight or obese women enrolled in a one year trial to
increase exercise behavior, supporting the conclusion that in-
trinsic motivation is related to increased physical activity ad-
herence. Stephan, Boiche and Scanff (2010) also found higher
levels of intrinsic motivation and lower levels of amotivation
among older women who persisted in an exercise routine com-
pared to women who discontinued exercise routines. However,
there was no difference between the groups on reported exter-
nal regulation. The researchers concluded that these findings
were consistent with previous research findings, which suggest
that self-determined and internalized motivations are positively
associated with persistence (Stephan, Boiche, & Scanff). A
recent study that examined the impact of a year-long, 30 ses-
sion, weight management intervention grounded in SDT (Silva,
Vieira et al., 2010) also supported the above-stated relationship
between intrinsic motivation and exercise adherence: women
who received the intervention had higher levels of intrinsic
motivation to exercise, exercised more, and lost more weight
than women in the control group.
Type of motivation clearly has an impact on exercise adher-
ence; exercise-related research also identifies self-efficacy—
one’s feelings about one’s aptitude for success in a given do-
main (Bandura, 1997)—as key factor. Physical self-efficacy—
the belief that one will be successful in physical or exercise-
related pursuits—can have a significant impact on one’s exer-
cise intentions and behaviors. Research has shown that the be-
lief that one can effectively meet his or her behavioral inten-
tions, even when presented with personal or situational barriers,
is positively correlated with health behavior and health status
among adults of various ages (Grembowski et al., 1993). Data
on the exercise behavior of older adults demonstrated that
physical self-efficacy was not only associated with current be-
havior, but was also a reliable predictor of future exercise be-
havior. For example, level of physical self-efficacy signifi-
cantly discriminated between participants who successfully
followed an exercise routine and those who did not, and it pre-
dicted exercise adherence nine months later (McAuley et al.,
1993). Other studies have supported this trend (Cox et al., 2003;
McAuley et al., 1995; Marcus et al., 1992; Wilcox and Storandt,
1996). In their study of 40 - 65 year-old women, Cox et al.
(2003) found that physical self-efficacy was directly associated
with exercise frequency, and Marcus et al.’s data indicated that
greater levels of physical self-efficacy significantly differenti-
ated individuals at greater levels of exercise adherence. Con-
versely, participants with lower physical self-efficacy reported
infrequent exercise behavior. Despite the importance of physi-
cal self-efficacy across all age groups, research has shown that
physical self-efficacy tends to be higher among younger, com-
pared to older, women (Scharff, Homan, Kreuter, & Brennan,
1999; Wilcox & Storandt, 1996).
The positive association between physical self-efficacy and
exercise behavior seems to apply to women in various stages of
exercise. For example, researchers found that physical self-
efficacy discriminates between highly active and moderately
active females (Rodgers & Gauvin, 1998), and is associated
with more positive attitudes towards exercise (Wilcox & Sto-
randt, 1996). Simonavice and Wiggins (2008) investigated the
relationship of self-efficacy to the transtheortical stages of
change model. They found that self-efficacy increased for each
successive stage; it was lowest in the contemplation stage and
highest in the maintenance stage. The researchers also found
that as self-efficacy increased the individual’s perceived barri-
ers to exercise decreased. Also, among inactive, overweight or
obese women, physical self-efficacy was associated with wei-
ght loss over the course of 4 - 16 months (Teixeira et al., 2006),
as well as success in overcoming barriers to exercise adherence
(Edmunds et al., 2007).
Exercising regularly affords not only physical health benefits,
but also enhances subjective well-being (McAuley et al., 2000).
Research findings suggest that small increases in the frequency,
duration, and intensity of exercise are related to significant
health improvements (Center for Disease Control, 2010), and
that over time, exercise adherence is related to enhanced mood
and psychological health (Alfermann & Stoll, 2000; Annesi &
Wescott, 2005; Kelsey et al., 2006; Macdonald & Palfai, 2008;
Matsouka et al., 2005; McAuley et al., 2000; Rocheleau et al.,
2004; Rodgers & Gauvin, 1998). McAuley et al. (2000) dem-
onstrated that participants who engaged in a 6-month exercise
program reported significant increases in happiness and satis-
faction with life, as well as significant decreases in loneliness.
Moreover, there is a positive relationship with exercise behav-
ior and satisfaction with life, such that those with the highest
frequency of exercise behavior reported the highest satisfaction
Other research has supported these results. For example,
Rodgers and Gauvin (1998) reported data on women who were
actively exercising and found that individuals who exercised
S. S. KOHLSTEDT ET AL.
three days a week were more likely to report reduced stress and
improved mental health as incentives for exercising than were
women who exercised two days per week. Similarly, women
who are regular runners reported being motivated by the stress
relief and improved mood that exercise affords (Kjelsas &
Augestad, 2003). Matsouka and colleagues (2005) found that
participants who exercised three times per week had signifi-
cantly more positive mood than those who exercised only once
per week, or not at all. Janisse, Nedd, Escamilla, and Nies
(2004) found that physical activity was a predictor of positive
mood for women who had just started a walking program.
Finally, the literature contains other evidence that exercise par-
ticipation is associated with more positive affect and positive
coping behavior (Kelsey et al., 2006), improvements in physi-
cal self-concept, greater self-esteem, and well-being, as well as
less negative self-worth, and fewer psychosomatic complaints
(Alfermann & Stoll, 2000).
The current study adds to the research cited in a 2010 publi-
cation by Stephen, Boiche and Scanff, in which the authors
examined differences in adherent and non-adherent women’s
motivation for exercise. While their investigation focused on
older women (60 - 88 years old) who were enrolled in an or-
ganized physical activity program, and included data from a
one-time assessment of motivation for exercise, health status,
and self-reported physical activity levels, the current study
included data from younger women (18 - 65 years old) which
were collected weekly for four weeks. In addition, this study
examines differences between adherent and non-adherent
women regarding physical self-efficacy and mood (i.e., positive
affect and satisfaction with life).
Given the findings reported in previous studies, it was hy-
pothesized that individuals who were non-adherent to their
exercise goals would be more likely to report external motives,
while individuals who were adherent to their exercise goals
would be more likely to report internal, self-determined mo-
tives. It was also expected that adherent women would report
higher levels of physical self-efficacy, positive affect, and sat-
isfaction with life at each time point, and that their scores
would increase or remain stable across time.
Sixty-four female participants completed the online surveys
detailed below. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 65. Nearly
80% identified as White, 9.4% as African American, 4.7% as
Hispanic, 4.7% as Asian American, and 1.6% as other. Twen-
ty-eight percent of participants were recruited through flyers
posted at university and community fitness centers, and the
remaining 72% were recruited through electronic ads posted on
www.Craigslist.com. These advertisements called for adults
interested in participating in a study on motivation and exercise,
and indicated that there would be two monetary raffle prizes.
All participants were required to be 18 years or older and in-
volved in some form of self-regulated exercise.
Participants reported their sex, age, ethnicity, and a specific
exercise goal, in days per week, which they aimed to meet for
each of the four weeks of the study.
The Exercise Motivation Inventory-2 (EMI-2)
The EMI-2 is a 51-item scale administered to assess the de-
gree to which participants endorse specific motivational factors.
Participants answered each item on a Likert-type scale, ranging
from 0 = not at all true for me to 5 = very true for me (Mark-
land & Ingledew, 1997). They received an average score for
each of 14 subscales, which fall under five major scales. The
Cronbach’s alpha, mean, and standard deviation for each of
these five scales in the current sample were: psychological
motives (α = 0.92, M = 50.40, SD = 13.78); interpersonal mo-
tives (α = 0.93, M = 19.36, SD = 14.44); health motives (α =
0.80, M = 28.33, SD = 7.26); body motives (α = 0.87, M =
30.65, SD = 7.96); and fitness motives (α = 0.84, M = 27.20, SD
The Physical Self-Efficacy Scale (PSES)
The PSES is a five-item scale used to assess participants’ be-
liefs in their ability to overcome specific barriers to maintaining
their exercise intentions (Schwarzer & Renner, 2005). Partici-
pants answered each item on a Likert-type scale, ranging from
1 = very uncertain to 4 = very certain. The Cronbach’s alpha,
mean, and standard deviation for the current sample were: α =
0.89, M = 13.56, SD = 3.61.
The Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS)
The PANAS is a 20-item scale that was used to assess par-
ticipants’ affective well-being (Watson, Clark, & Tellegen,
1998). Ten items comprise the positive affect subscale; the
other 10 items comprise the negative affect subscale. Partici-
pants answered each item on a Likert-type scale, ranging from
1 = very slightly or not at all to 5 = extremel y. The Cronbach’s
alpha, mean, and standard deviation for each of the scales in the
current sample were: positive affect: α = 0.90, M = 34.66, SD =
7.15 and negative affect: α = 0.90, M = 22.15, SD = 7.81.
The Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS)
The SWLS is a five-item scale that was used to assess par-
ticipants’ global judgment of their satisfaction in various life
domains (Diener et al., 1985). Participants answered each item
on a Likert-type scale, ranging from 1 = strongly disagree to 7
= strongly agree. The Cronbach’s alpha, mean, and standard
deviation in the current sample were: α = 0.93, M = 22.72, SD =
Participants reported a) the days of the week they exercised,
b) the duration of exercise on each day, c) a subjective rating of
their exercise intensity (low, moderate, high), and d) a subjec-
tive stress rating of their week, ranging from 0 = not at all
stressful to 10 = extremely stressful.
This project was approved by the Human Subjects Commit-
tee at the educational institution of its authors. After partici-
pants gave informed consent electronically, they were directed
to the “Welcome Survey”, detailed above, which was created
online at www.SurveyMonkey.com. For each of the following
four weeks, participants received an email containing the link to
the “Weekly Survey”, detailed above, which they completed
Adherence was determined based on a calculation of the dif-
ference between a participant’s reported exercise goal and her
average weekly exercise. Because reported goals were sub-
Open Access 919
S. S. KOHLSTEDT ET AL.
tracted from average weekly exercise, a score greater than or
equal to zero indicated that a participant met or exceeded her
goal, while a score less than zero indicated that a participant
failed to meet her goal. Of the 64 females, exactly 50% met or
exceed their goals. An independent-samples t-test indicated that
there was no difference between adherents and non-adherents in
terms of goals set, t (61) = −1.28, p = 0.21; adherents M = 4.39,
SD = 1.20; non-adherents M = 4.78; SD = 1.24. In addition,
there was not a significant difference in the median age be-
tween the adherent group (Mdn = 27 years) and the non-ad-
herent group (Mdn = 26.5 years).
A Pearson correlation of participants’ motives for exercise
and their exercise consistency across the four-week data collec-
tion period indicated that motives were largely unrelated to
exercise consistency. Body-related motives were the only sig-
nificant correlate, r = −0.30, p = 0.02, indicating that partici-
pants who reported greater body-related motives were less con-
sistent in their week-to-week exercise behavior.
An independent-samples t-test was performed to assess dif-
ferences between adherents’ and non-adherents’ motives for
exercise. Mean comparisons indicated that compared to adher-
ents, non-adherents reported significantly greater health-related
and body-related motives for exercise, t (62) = −2.04, p = 0.05;
t (62) = −2.07, p = 0.04, respectively (see Table 1).
An independent-samples t-test was performed to assess dif-
ferences between adherents and non-adherents on physical
self-efficacy, positive affect, and satisfaction with life, as re-
ported by participants in the “Welcome Survey” at the begin-
ning of the data collection period. Contrary to expectation,
mean comparisons indicated that adherents reported signifi-
cantly lower physical self-efficacy, t (62) = −2.36, p = 0.02;
positive affect, t (62) = −2.07, p = 0.04; and satisfaction with
life, t (62) = −2.74, p = 0.01 (see Table 1). Of note, these fac-
tors were significantly correlated with each other among ad-
herents and non-adherents alike (see Table 2).
To assess change across time, a 2 × 2 (group × time) repeated
measures ANOVA was conducted for self-efficacy, positive
affect, and satisfaction with life. Results indicated a significant
group × time interaction for self-efficacy, F (1, 62) = 9.75, p <
0.01. Follow-up comparisons indicated that the adherents ex-
perienced a significant increase in self-efficacy across time, F
Exercise motives and psychological factors.
(n = 32) (n = 32)
Beginning End Beginning End
Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD MeanSD
Motives 12.31a 3.36 - 13.75b 2.15- -
Motives 11.00a 4.30 - 12.97b 3.24- -
Self-Efficacy 11.63a,1 5.45 14.222 3.34 14.22b 3.0012.944.97
Positive Affect 30.47a,1 12.42 38.062 9.60 35.59b 6.4734.2811.73
with Life 18.31a,1 10.23 23.252 7.75 24.28b 6.8922.139.12
Note: In a given row, means with subscript (b) are significantly larger than means
with subscript (a) at p < 0.05. Within groups, in any given row, means with sub-
script (2) are significantly larger than means with subscript (1) at p < 0.05.
Physical self-efficacy, positive affect, and satisfaction with life.
Beginning of the Study End of the Study
1 2 3 1 2 3
1) Physical Self-Efficacy- 0.45** 0.32 - 0.50** 0.62**
2) Positive Affect 0.67** - 0.48** 0.48** - 0.53**
3) Satisfaction with Life 0.65** 0.73** - 0.11 0.51** -
Note. Correlations among the adherent group are below the diagonal in each
matrix, and those for the non-adherent group are above the diagonal in each
matrix. **Significant at p < 0.01.
(1, 31) = 8.00, p < 0.01, while the non-adherents did not, F (1,
31) = 1.49, p = 0.23. Similar results were found for positive
affect and satisfaction with life. For positive affect, the overall
repeated measures ANOVA indicated a significant group x time
interaction, F (1, 62) = 6.87, p < 0.05, and follow-up compari-
sons indicated that adherents experienced a significant increase
in positive affect over time, F (1, 31) = 8.31, p < 0.01, while
non-adherents did not, F (1, 31) = 2.31, p = 0.21. Finally, the
group x time interaction was also significant for satisfaction
with life, F (1, 62) = 7.57, p < 0.01. There was a significant
increase in satisfaction with life among adherents, F (1, 31) =
8.38, p < 0.01, and there was no significant change in satisfac-
tion with life among non-adherents, F (1, 31) = 2.06, p = 0.16.
Ratings of physical self-efficacy, positive affect, and satisfac-
tion with life at the end of the study were also significantly
correlated among adherents and non-adherents alike (see Table
An independent-samples t-test was also performed to assess
group differences in the ratings of physical self-efficacy, posi-
tive affect, and satisfaction of life at the end of the data collec-
tion period. Mean comparisons indicated that adherents and
non-adherents did not differ on their ratings of these three vari-
ables at the end of the four-week data collection period: physi-
cal self-efficacy, t (62) = 1.21, p = 0.23; positive affect, t (62) =
1.41, p = 0.16; and satisfaction with life, t (62) = 0.53, p = 0.60.
However, at this time, adherents’ scores were greater than non-
adherents’ score (though, not statistically significantly so) on
each of these three variables (see Table 1).
Based on previous empirical findings, it was hypothesized
that there would be differences in the motivation to exercise
expressed by adherent and non-adherent female exercisers in
this study. Specifically, it was expected that adherent women
would be more likely to express intrinsic motivation, while
non-adherent women would be more likely to identify extrinsic
motives for exercising. The results from the current study par-
tially supported this hypothesis. Compared to adherent women,
non-adherent women were more likely to endorse body-related
and health-related motives for exercising; however, the results
did not indicate that adherent women were more likely to ex-
press intrinsic motives for exercising. Further confirming the
difference found related to extrinsic motives, the data also
showed that overall, body-related motives were negatively as-
sociated with exercise consistency. Thus, women who reported
greater body-related motives for exercising were less consistent
in their exercise behavior over the course of the four-week
study, and they were less likely to meet their own exercise
goals during that time period. It is relevant to note that adherent
S. S. KOHLSTEDT ET AL.
women’s success at meeting their exercise-related goals cannot
be attributed to them setting lower goals. In fact, adherence was
unrelated to goals, and adherent women were equally ambitious
as non-adherent women in their initially-stated goals.
These findings are important for understanding types of mo-
tives that may or may not encourage women to persist in exer-
cising. While society often uses body-related motives to pro-
mote exercise (Blaine & McElroy, 2002; Prichard & Tigge-
mann, 2008), the current results suggest that these external
pressures may thwart women’s efforts towards exercise adher-
ence and consistency. Further, the results seem to support Deci
and Ryan’s (1985) theory of self-determination. Specifically,
when individuals are motivated primarily by external influence,
as seen among the women in this study who reported greater
body-related and health-related motives, they are less likely to
persist in meeting their exercise-related intentions. These find-
ings provide additional support for the previous research, which
has suggested that motives that do not support intrinsic motives
are less likely to be associated with exercise adherence (Ryan &
Deci, 2000; Ryan et al., 1997; Segar et al., 2006).
The current study and the study by Stephan, Boiche and
Scanff (2010) are significant for their support of the theory of
self-determination: the findings from the current study identi-
fied significant differences between adherent and non-adherent
women with regards to external motivation, while the findings
from Stephen et al. identified significant differences between
adherent and non-adherent women with regards to intrinsic
The current findings regarding physical self-efficacy, posi-
tive affect, and satisfaction with life may shed additional light
on persistence and adherence to exercise-related goals. It was
hypothesized that adherent women would report higher levels
of these three constructs at each time point, and that their scores
would increase or remain stable across time. The results of the
current study were partially consistent with these hypotheses.
Contrary to the hypothesis, adherent women actually reported
lower levels of physical self-efficacy, positive affect, and satis-
faction with life when compared to non-adherent women at the
outset of the study. This finding is inconsistent with previous
research findings, which suggest that higher levels of physical
self-efficacy are related to current adherence and predictive of
future adherence (Cox et al., 2003; McAuley et al., 1995;
McAuley et al., 1993; Marcus et al., 1992; Wilcox & Storandt,
1996). One possible explanation is that adherent women were
more cautious in the reporting of their self-efficacy and other
mood scores, which led to the lower reporting of scores at the
outset. Further, these women may have felt more confident
after adhering to their goals over the four weeks, which led to
the increase in self-efficacy and mood scores at the end.
Consistent with the hypothesis, adherent women showed sig-
nificant increases in reported feelings of psychological well-
being over time. Over the course of the four-week study, there
was a significant increase in physical self-efficacy, positive
affect, and satisfaction with life among adherent women. Thus,
as they continued to meet their goals, they felt an increased
sense of psychological well-being. From this data, it is difficult
to determine if increased psychological well-being resulted in
greater exercise adherence, or vice versa. Also, there is a possi-
bility that these factors could share bi-directional relationships.
Nevertheless, the significant and positive increase they reported
in these factors is notable, particularly as they relate to the
women’s exercise adherence.
Furthermore, it can be certain that this finding is not due to a
ceiling effect for the non-adherent group. The non-adherents’
mean scores for physical self-efficacy, positive affect, and sat-
isfaction with life at the beginning of the study were 11.63 (on
a scale of 5 to 20), 24.28 (on a scale of 5 to 35), 30.40 (on a
scale of 10 to 50), respectively. Thus, they had adequate room
for potential improvement.
It is possible that the findings from the current study that are
different from previous research might be due to the measures
used, the duration of the study, and/or the sample demographics.
As such, future research should be conducted to attempt to
confirm both pieces of the theory of self-determination in one
sample by examining different participant groups, lengths be-
tween assessments, and measurement tools.
Overall, the results from this study provide two key mes-
sages: 1) that body-related and health related pressures have the
potential to detract from women’s abilities to persist towards
exercise adherence, and 2) that psychological well-being im-
proves with exercise adherence. It may be more helpful to
women if societal messages aimed to promote physical fitness
focusing on factors that are more intrinsic, such as competence,
autonomy, and relatedness. If this shift helped more women to
approach their goals with greater self-determination, the effects
could be profound—women would likely persist and succeed at
meeting their exercise-related goals more often, and they would
experience increased physical self-efficacy, positive affect, and
satisfaction with life.
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