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J Health Psychol. 2006 Nov;11(6):887-903.

Examining exercise dependence symptomatology from a self-determination perspective.

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  • 1Health Services Research Centre, School of Health and Lifestyle Science, Coventry University, UK.


Background Pulling from Self-Determination Theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 1985), this study examined whether individuals classified as 'nondependent-symptomatic' and 'nondependent-asymptomatic' for exercise dependence differed in terms of reported levels of exercise-related psychological need satisfaction, self-determined versus controlling motivation and exercise behavior. In addition, we examined the type of motivational regulations predicting exercise behavior among these different groups, and their role as mediators between psychological need satisfaction and behavioral outcomes. Methods Participants (N = 339) completed measures of exercise-specific psychological need satisfaction, motivational regulations, exercise behavior and exercise dependence. Results Nondependent-symptomatic individuals reported higher levels of competence need satisfaction and all forms of motivational regulation, compared to nondependent-asymptomatic individuals. Introjected regulation approached significance as a positive predictor of strenuous exercise behavior for symptomatic individuals. Identified regulation was a positive predictor of strenuous exercise, and completely mediated the relationship between competence need satisfaction and strenuous exercise behavior, for asymptomatic individuals. Conclusions The findings reinforce the applicability of SDT to understanding the quantity and quality of engagement in exercise.

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