Goals matter: Exercising for well-being but not health or appearance predicts future exercise among parents

Emily L. Mailey, Deirdre Dlugonski, Wei Wen Hsu, Michelle Segar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: Many parents are insufficiently active. Further research is needed to understand the goals that drive sustained exercise participation among parents. The purpose of this study was to use self-determination theory derived constructs to examine the relationship between parents' exercise goals and their autonomous motivation, controlled motivation, and exercise behavior across 1 year. Methods: Mothers (n = 226) and fathers (n = 70) of children less than 16 years completed the Exercise Motivations Inventory-2 and, 1 year later, the Behavioral Regulation in Exercise Questionnaire-2 and Godin Leisure-Time Exercise Questionnaire. Linear mixed effects models were used to examine the longitudinal relationships between exercise goals and autonomous motivation, controlled motivation, and leisure-time exercise. Results: All goals except weight management were significantly associated with autonomous motivation, whereas only weight and appearance goals predicted controlled motivation. Exercising for stress management and revitalization, but not health- or appearance-related goals, was significantly related to exercise behavior over 1 year. Conclusions: Only goals related to immediate affective outcomes were associated with both autonomous motivation and exercise behavior over time. These findings support recent calls to "rebrand exercise" as a means to improve daily well-being. Such goals may drive parents to prioritize exercise because they value the immediate benefits it provides.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)857-865
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Physical Activity and Health
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Human Kinetics, Inc.


  • Health promotion
  • Motivation
  • Physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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