Using motivation regulations in a person-centered approach to examine the link between social physique anxiety in physical education and physical activity-related outcomes in adolescents

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This study explored how social physique anxiety (SPA) combined with different patterns of motivation regulations might facilitate versus deter effort and enjoyment in physical education (PE) and leisure-time physical activity.


Cross-sectional survey.


High school students (N = 298; Mage = 15.72, SDage = 1.24 years) completed an in-class survey including SPA in PE, motivation regulations for PE, enjoyment and effort in PE and leisure-time physical activity.


Four profiles of students were identified in cluster analysis based on autonomous motivation, introjected regulation, external regulation and SPA. Profile one (“high diverse motivation”; n = 84) reflected relatively high motivation across all regulations and average SPA. Profile two (“moderate autonomous motivation”; n = 92) included those with average scores on autonomous motivation and relatively low scores on introjected and external regulation and SPA. Profile three (“moderate diverse motivation and anxious”; n = 59) had relatively high SPA combined with average motivation regulations. Profile four (“externally controlled and anxious”; n = 63) also had relatively high SPA but relatively low autonomous motivation and introjected regulation and relatively high external regulation. MANOVA results showed that “externally controlled and anxious” students reported the lowest physical activity behavior and enjoyment in PE. Conversely, the “moderate diverse motivation and anxious” students have physical activity experiences that do not differ from the two profiles that exhibited lower SPA.


Higher feelings of SPA in PE appear linked with lower levels of enjoyment and effort in PE and leisure-time physical activity outside of school only when coupled with higher external regulation. This finding helps explain inconsistent associations between SPA and physical activity outcomes.


▸ Link between social physique anxiety and physical activity depends on motivation. ▸ Social physique anxiety associates with autonomous motivation for some students. ▸ Social physique anxiety is only detrimental with high external regulation. ▸ Social physique anxiety can associate with adaptive physical activity outcomes.

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