The Motivational Regulations of Self-determination Theory and Objectively-assessed exercise participation and the mediating effects
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According to the Self-Determination Theory (SDT), intrinsic motivation and identified regulation are positively related to exercise participation, while introjected regulation, external regulation, and amotivation are negatively related to exercise participation. Also, according to Cognitive Evaluation Theory, a subtheory of the SDT, the satisfaction of the basic needs (autonomy, competence, and relatedness) is positively related to intrinsic motivation and identified regulation. These theoretical relationships have been confirmed by many researchers when exercise participation is measured via self-report questionnaires, however, few studies have tested these relationships with objectively-assessed exercise participation. Therefore, the aim of this study was to clarify the relationships between five motivational regulations (i.e., intrinsic motivation, introjected regulations, external regulation, and amotivation) and exercise participation within a worksite wellness exercise program. Additionally, the relationship between the three basic needs (i.e., autonomy, competence, and relatedness) and exercise participation will be investigated to determine the mediating effects of intrinsic motivation and identified regulation. Participants (n=162; M = 12, F = 150) were members of a worksite wellness program offered by a school district in central Texas. The worksite wellness program consisted of weekly group exercise classes, monthly nutrition lectures, and comprehensive fitness testing at the beginning and end of a 4 month period. Prior to beginning the program, each participant completed a multi-section questionnaire examining all aforementioned variables. Participation was assessed using attendance records. Multiple regression analyses revealed that external regulation and autonomy were significant predictors of exercise participation. Further analysis, however, revealed that intrinsic motivation and identified regulation did not mediate the relationship between autonomy and exercise participation. Based on the results, it appears that individuals who are externally motivated or feel autonomous within an exercise program are likely to participate more often. These findings show partial support for Self-Determination Theory and Cognitive Evaluation Theory.