Goal Content in Exercise: A Self-Determination Theory Perspective

  • Simon Sebire

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The purpose of the present thesis was to explore the cognitive, affective and behavioural correlates of adults’ exercise goals using the goal content perspective forwarded in Self-determination Theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 2000). In Study 1, to facilitate theoretically consistent measurement of exercise goal content, the Goal Content for Exercise Questionnaire (GCEQ) was developed and validated in multiple adult samples (N = 1306). In Study 2, analysis of cross-sectional data from 410 adults showed that relative intrinsic goal content (assessed by the GCEQ) predicted variance in adaptive cognitive, affective and behavioural aspects of exercise. Commensurate the hypotheses of SDT, the effect of goal content on cognitive and affective (but not behavioural) variables remained significant above and beyond exercise behavioural regulation. The cognitive and affective effects of goal content were shown to be partially mediated by psychological need satisfaction. In Study 3, qualitative analysis of exercisers (N = 11) experiences of pursuing relative intrinsic/extrinsic goals revealed themes that advance the understanding of the mechanisms underlying the findings of Study 2. Extending the findings of Study 2, using a prospective design and objective behavioural assessment, in Study 4 (N = 101) a motivational sequence from goal content to engagement in health-enhancing bouts of exercise behaviour via behavioural regulation was observed. Collectively, the four studies provide a comprehensive analysis of exercise goal content from an SDT perspective. The findings highlight the utility of the goal content construct in understanding motivation for exercise and provide a foundation for theoretically aligned future research.
Date of Award1 Mar 2009
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorMartyn Standage (Supervisor) & M Vansteenkiste (Supervisor)


  • Goals
  • exercise psychology
  • self-determiniation theory
  • exercise

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