Based on the Self-determination theory process model, this study aimed to explore relationships between the latent constructs of psychological need satisfaction, autonomous motivation and exercise behaviour; the mediational role of autonomous motivation in the association of psychological need satisfaction with exercise behaviour; as well as gender and age differences in the aforementioned associations.
Adult active members of an Internet-based exercise program (n = 1091) between 18 and 78 years of age completed a test battery on motivational aspects based on Self-determination theory. The Basic Psychological Needs in Exercise Scale and the Behavioural Regulation in Exercise Questionnaire-2 were used to measure need satisfaction and type of motivation and the Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire to measure self-reported exercise.
Need satisfaction predicted autonomous motivation, which in turn predicted exercise, especially for women. Autonomous motivation was found to mediate the association between need satisfaction and exercise. Age and gender moderated several of the paths in the model linking need satisfaction with motivation and exercise.
The results demonstrated gender and age differences in the proposed sequential mechanisms between autonomous motivation and exercise in the process model. This study thus highlights a potential value in considering moderating factors and the need to further examine the underlying mechanisms between needs, autonomous motivation, and exercise behaviour.