Changes in Exercise Behavior and Exercise Identity Associated with a 14-Week Aerobic Exercise Class

By Cardinal, Bradley J.; Cardinal, Marita K. | Journal of Sport Behavior, December 1997 | Go to article overview

Changes in Exercise Behavior and Exercise Identity Associated with a 14-Week Aerobic Exercise Class


Cardinal, Bradley J., Cardinal, Marita K., Journal of Sport Behavior


Regular exercise involvement has been associated with a number of positive physiological (Blair, Wells, Weathers, & Paffenbarger, 1994) and psychological (Martinsen & Stephens, 1994) outcomes. Few people, however, are able to fully realize the benefits of an active lifestyle because few people engage in physical activity on a regular basis Caspersen, Merritt, & Stephens, (1994). For example, Powell, Thompson, Caspersen, and Kendrick (1987) estimated that 60% of U.S. adults were "inactive" and of those, 27% were "totally sedentary." In addition, of those people who begin an exercise program, 50% drop out in the first 6 months (Martin & Dubbert, 1982). Increasing the number of people who regularly engage in physical activity is an important public health priority in North America (Fitness Canada, 1991; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 1992) and abroad (National Heart Foundation of Australia, 1985; Sports Council of Great Britain, 1990).

To increase our understanding of the exercise behavior change, promotion, and retention process, the theoretical work of Markus (1977) may be useful; particularly as it relates to social-cognitive influences of exercise behavior and exercise interventions designed to influence behavior (Dishman, 1994). Markus's work derives from a social-cognitive perspective centered around the reciprocal relationship between behavior and role-identity. Theoretically, the roles one assumes give meaning and value to past behavior and provide direction for future behavior. For example, if exercise is a salient aspect of one's role-identity, then one should be motivated to engage, in exercise in the present and future as this action serves to reinforce and validate one s concept of self (Swann, 1983, 1985).

One's perceptions of the exercise experience, not just her/his exercise involvement, may also influence the exercise behavior-identity relationship (Kendzierski, 1994). For example, two individuals both play 18 holes of golf, four times per week, each walking as much as five miles per outing. One of the individuals perceives the activity as exercise and the other perceives it as recreation. Although behaviorally similar, the individual who perceives the activity as exercise would, theoretically, have a stronger exercise identity. An exception to this might be someone with a strong exercise role-identity who only engages in an occasional weekend outing of exercise (i.e., the so called "weekend warrior"). Behaviorally this person is not really exercising in an appropriate manner (American College of Sports Medicine, 1995), yet the individual may have a strong exercise role-identity and act accordingly on occasion.

Cross-sectional evidence supports the relationship between exercise behavior and exercise identity. For example, Anderson and Cychosz (1995) surveyed medical center employees and found two behavioral indicators of exercise were able to explain a significant proportion of variance in exercise identity ([R.sup.2] = .34). Kendzierski (1988) found significant associations between those classified by exercise identity status and a number of behavioral indicators of physical activity. These research designs, however, only provide a "snapshot" of a dynamic, reciprocal relationship and are thus incomplete (Kendzierski, 1994; Anderson & Cychosz, 1995). The purpose of this study was to examine the association between exercise behavior and exercise identity using a prospective research design.

Method

Participants

Forty-nine female college students enrolled in either exercise (n = 27) or non-exercise (n = 22) classes provided informed consent and volunteered to participate in this study.(1) All participants were adults between 18 and 52 years old (M = 27.3, SD = 9.0). The majority were African-American (n = 25, 51.0%), followed by Caucasian (n = 17, 34.7%), Latino/Hispanic (n = 5, 10.2%), and Asian-Pacific Islander (n = 2, 4. …

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