Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

The Influence of Self-Determination in Physical Education on Leisure-Time Physical Activity Behavior

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

The Influence of Self-Determination in Physical Education on Leisure-Time Physical Activity Behavior

Article excerpt

Using a multitheory approach, this study was designed to investigate the influence of urban adolescents' perceived autonomy and competence in physical education on their physical activity intentions and behaviors during leisure time. A transcontextual model was hypothesized and tested. Urban adolescents (N = 653, ages 11-15 years) completed questionnaires assessing relevant psychological constructs and moderate to vigorous physical activity and then had their cardiorespiratory fitness assessed with the Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run (PACER) test. Based on our structural equation modeling analyses and fit indexes, the transcontextual model adequately fit the data. We concluded that the two theoretical frameworks SDT and theory of planned behavior--can be integrated to provide an enhanced understanding of the influence of physical education on leisure-time physical activity. The results revealed that perceived autonomy and competence in physical education are interrelated and function as a whole for enhancing leisure-time physically active intentions and behavior.

Key words: perceived autonomy and competence, transcontextual model, urban adolescents


According to the U.S. National Standards for Physical Education (National Association for Sport and Physical Education [NASPE], 2004), an important goal in physical education is to provide students with the necessary knowledge, skill, and competence to participate in physical activity outside of school during their leisure time. It is assumed that physical education will significantly influence students' leisure-time physical activity involvement and subsequent health (NASPE, 2004). Nevertheless, empirical research that addresses this carryover process is scarce; especially research examining how physical education teachers or physical education programs can effectively orient students toward regular leisure-time physical activity. The current study was designed to address this shortcoming. Specifically, by using a multitheory approach (Hagger, Chatzisarantis, Culverhouse, & Biddle, 2003), we adopted constructs from two social cognitive theories--Self-Determination Theory and Theory of Planned Behavior--to investigate the psychological mechanisms by which urban adolescents' motivation in physical education transfers into their leisure-time physical activity.

Compared to rural adolescents, urban adolescents report fewer convenient locations in which to be active, such as gymnasia and parks, making it more difficult to be physically active (Sallis et al., 1996). In fact, for most urban adolescents, school physical education is the only structured opportunity for them to learn the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in a variety of physical activities and exercises (Chen& Hancock, 2006). However, urban physical education has its challenges. High poverty rates, broad ethnic diversity, increased violence, academically failing schools, and declining tax bases in urban communities (Ng, 2003) significantly challenge teachers' efforts to implement quality programs (Cothran & Ennis, 1997; McCaughtry, Barnard, Martin, Shen, & Kulinna, 2006; Pope & O'Sullivan; 2003). Given such unique challenges and the many ways they impinge on teachers' work, we believe it is important to understand how physical education programs and physical education teachers can work through those challenges and enhance urban adolescents' leisure-time physical activity.

Self-Determination Theory (SDT)

Self-determination theorists suggest that psychological needs are essential for growth and well being in every human being (Deci & Ryan, 2000). They posit that within the educational domain, opportunities to experience autonomy, competence, and relatedness (each representing a basic psychological need) are essential in promoting satisfaction and optimal learning (Reeve, Bolt, & Cai, 1999). According to SDT, the need for autonomy refers to the basic need to experience one's behavior as self-endorsed or volitional (Deci & Ryan, 2000). …

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