Exploring Relationships Between Motivation to Engage in Physical Activity and Body Image in Young People with Intellectual Disabilities

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Background: Individuals with intellectual disabilities are proportionately more likely to face physical health problems related to weight than the general population. Furthermore, despite the well-documented evidence supporting exercise, these individuals are less likely to meet clinical recommendations for physical activity. Self-determination theory suggests that intrinsic motivation is predictive of engagement in adaptive behaviours such as exercise. In addition, research carried out on the general population suggests that a positive perception of one’s body size is associated with increased physical activity, with bi-directional relationships being found between the two variables. This study aimed to investigate the relationships between motivation, body satisfaction, and level of physical activity. The potential effect of gender on these relationships was also tested. Method: The Pictorial Motivation Scale (Reid, 2010), and brief ratings of physical activity level and body satisfaction were administered to 46 young adults (16-24) with intellectual disabilities. Results: Analysis revealed significant positive relationships between body satisfaction and physical activity, body satisfaction and intrinsic motivation, and body satisfaction and selfdetermined extrinsic motivation. Gender did not moderate any of these relationships. Despite predictions, a relationship between motivational orientation and physical activity was not found. Conclusions: Results highlight both similarities and differences to the wider population and suggest that body satisfaction could be an important consideration in assessing and promoting engagement in physical activity. Future research should address the direction of the relationships, patterns in a broader age group of people with intellectual disabilities, and qualitative exploration of body perceptions and gender identity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2019


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