Perceived self-regulation of exercise goals and interfering goals among regular and irregular exercisers: a life space analysis

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Objectives:To investigate whether adults self-classified as regular and irregular exercisers tend to differentially perceive the self-regulation of their exercise goals (a between groups comparison) and whether the groups’ differ in their self-regulatory perceptions of an exercise goal versus a goal that strongly interferes with exercise (a within groups comparison).Designs:Cross-Sectional Survey.Methods:College students (N=399, 66% female), who were either regular or irregular exercisers, completed the Goal Systems Assessment Battery [GSAB; Karoly, P., & Ruehlman, L. S. (1995). Goal cognition and its clinical implications: Development and preliminary validation of four motivational assessment instruments. Assessment, 2, 113–129] for the goal of exercise and for a self-selected interfering goal. The GSAB gauges how individuals evaluate multiple functional components of self-regulation.Results:A doubly multivariate MANOVA revealed a significant interaction between exercise regularity and goal type. Irregular exercisers manifested a pattern of goal regulatory thinking favoring their interfering goal relative to their exercise goal with respect to its value and the extent of their monitoring, planning, social comparison, and self-rewarding their progress toward that goal. Regular exercisers tended not to make such regulatory distinctions.Conclusions:Although life pursuits identified as interfering with exercise (e.g. academic goals) generally require more of a psychological investment than engaging in exercise, regular exercisers tend to construe their physical activity goals in a manner that closely matches their ratings of competing life aspirations. A dual focus on exercise goals and their aspirational rivals may inform motivational theory and intervention.

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