Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Understanding Exercise Behaviour: Examining the Interaction of Exercise Motivation and Personality in Predicting Exercise Frequency

Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Understanding Exercise Behaviour: Examining the Interaction of Exercise Motivation and Personality in Predicting Exercise Frequency

Article excerpt

Exercise can not only improve one's physiological development, but can also promote psychological well-being. Participation in exercise dramatically improved the well-being of people suffering from chronic health conditions (Graham, Kremer and Wheeler, 2008), while individual components of well-being, including fortitude, stress management and coping, have all been shown to significantly improve when associated with a regular exercise schedule (Edwards, 2006). In addition, regular exercisers perceive themselves as having more autonomy, personal growth, purpose in life, positive relations with others and conditioning than non-exercisers (Edwards, Ngcobo, Edwards and Palavar, 2005). Yet according to the National Health Service in the United Kingdom (2006) only 35% of men and 24% of women reported achieving the physical adult recommendations of 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise at least 5 times a week in 2004. With the evidence indicating that the notion of 'healthy body, healthy mind' really can exist, Jones, Harris, Waller and Coggins (2005) note that encouraging exercise is an essential area of health promotion. Identifying the individual factors which encourage exercise participation and gaining a deeper understanding of the relationship between personality, exercise motivation and exercise participation is therefore important in order to help promote healthy lifestyles.

Traits are conceptualised as cross-situational consistencies in behaviour and there is evidence of a certain level of genetic determination (Saudino and Plomin, 1996). Motives, while also showing long-term dispositional stability, are more dependent on the situation for arousal or expression in behaviour (Winter, John, Stewart, Klohnen and Duncan, 1998). Research on personality traits and motivation generally concludes that the two systems are independent elements of personality but that they interact to predict behaviour (Winter et al, 1998). Both have been studied extensively in relation to sport and exercise behaviour.

The Big Five traits represent a universal, cross-cultural structure of individual differences (McCrae & Costa, 1997). There is a great deal of evidence for the ability of the Big Five to subsume other personality measures (McCrae & Costa, 1990), with these five traits accounting for the bulk of the variance in many samples, while other factors are small and specific and less useful for a broad taxonomy (Costa & McCrae, 1995). Briefly, the Big Five traits comprise Extraversion (the tendency to be assertive, sociable and outgoing), Agreeableness (warm, generous and trusting as opposed to more self-focused and untrusting), Conscientiousness (organised, thorough and dependable), Emotional Stability (calm and unperturbed through most of life's events; the opposite pole of this trait is often referred to as Neuroticism) and finally, Openness to Experience (the extent to which a person is imaginative, curious and creative).

The Big Five personality traits have been associated with many health-related behaviours, including smoking (Cosci, Corlando, Fornai, Paoletti and Carrozzi, 2009), alcohol consumption (Goldstein and Flea, 2009), healthy eating (MacNicol, Murray and Austin, 2003) and exercise (Huang, Lee and Chang, 2007). Exercise participation appears most commonly related to Extraversion, Conscientiousness and Neuroticism / Emotional Stability, though findings are often contradictory. Yeung and Hemsley (1997) associated high levels of Extraversion amongst women with low attendance on an eight-week aerobics exercise program. However, Rhodes (2006) identified Extraversion and Conscientiousness as consistent positive correlates of physical activity, with Neuroticism a consistent negative correlate. These findings were further corroborated and extended by work suggesting that regular exercise is associated with low levels of Neuroticism, anxiety and depression, and high levels of Extraversion and sensation seeking (De Moor, Beem, Stubbe and Boomsma, 2006). …

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