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The main purpose of the present investigation was to examine approach-avoidance achievement goal patterns across stages of physical activity participation. In addition, sex differences in the approach and avoidance goals were examined as well as goal contrast scores (i.e., approach minus avoidance) as secondary purposes.The research was cross-sectional in design.Participants were 804 university students who completed a questionnaire assessing their stage of physical activity, 2 × 2 achievement goals, and demographics.MANOVA results revealed hypothesized and significant (p < .001) physical activity stage differences in the mastery and performance approach goals as well as significant (p's < .05) gender differences in both performance goals. A significant (p < .01) gender by physical activity stage interaction emerged for the performance goals and surprisingly, was found mainly in the advanced exercise stages (i.e., action, maintenance, and long-term maintenance). Last, significant (p < .001) gender and physical activity stage main effects emerged for the achievement goal contrasts. Males endorsed both the mastery and performance contrasts more than females. Collapsed for both sexes, the contrast scores were greater in the physically active than the non-active stages.Findings suggested that interventions targeting physical activity in university students should emphasize approach goals relative to the avoidance goals. Particular attention should be paid to the performance goals in the maintenance and long-term maintenance stages as they appeared theoretically inconsistent for the female participants. Last, the split in the preparation stage (active, non-active) should be incorporated into future stage based investigations as the split demonstrated two meaningfully different subgroups.