Exercise Identity, Commitment and Behaviour

Abstract Different relationships influence the way one acts in society. Associating a specific identity with many relationships, or with a particularly strong relationship, increases likelihood that the identity will surface across other situations. Therefore, this commitment (quantitative & qualitative) influences exercise identity. The stronger one’s exercise identity is, the greater one’s exercise habits will be. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between these measures: qualitative & quantitative commitment, exercise identity strength, and exercise behaviour.

Participants (N=174, Male = 56, Female = 118) were undergraduate kinesiology students (Mage=20. 01 SD= 1. 35) in an exercise psychology course. A survey was circulated to consenting individuals during class time, requiring 15 minutes to answer all questions. The survey consisted of questions based upon three measures: The Exercise Identity Scale (Anderson & Cychosz, 1994) a 5 point scale (1-5). Secondly, Burkes & Reitzes’ Commitment Scale (1991) a two part 5 point scale (1-5).

The final measure was the Godin Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire (Godin & Shepard, 1985) in which results were measured using arbitrary units, where the higher the score, the better. Data was analyzed using statistical software SPSS 20. 0. Exercise identity based questions reported a mean of 3. 91 (SD = 0. 75). Quantitative commitment questions reported a mean of 2. 11 (SD = 0. 69). Qualitative commitment questions reported a mean of 3. 17 (SD = 1. 08). The mean score for the GLTEQ was 64. 44 (SD = 29. 33). Participants were categorized into four separate groups based upon their exercise habits (ex.6+ months of regular exercise, intent to begin regular exercise in the next month).

It was apparent from the correlations between variables that there was a link between commitment strength and exercise behaviour. Quantitative commitment and qualitative commitment were highly correlated, as were exercise identity and behaviour. Understanding Exercise Identity, Commitment and Behaviour Many barriers exist to prevent exercise adoption and adherence among a large part of the North American population (Tappe, Duda & Ehrnwald, 1989). People with sedentary tendencies have a more difficult time relating to the lifestyle of their active counterparts.

However, numerous benefits are associated with habitual exercise, including: increased energy, improved academic performance, and presentation of many opportunities to form beneficial social relationships. (House, Landis & Umberson, 1988) Research has shown that the number and strength of these relationships can influence the selection of a particular identity. An identity refers to a set of meanings that define who one is when one is an occupant of a particular role in society (Strachan et. al, 2009), in this case, as an exerciser.

Commitment refers to the sum of the forces, pressure or drives that influence people to maintain congruity between their identity setting and the input of reflected appraisals from the social setting (Burke & Reitzes, 1991). An identity salient with many different relationships is more likely to be selected. This would reflect the effect of high quantitative commitment. Following a similar pattern, an identity associated with a particularly strong relationship will also be chosen more commonly. This reflects high qualitative commitment.

Identity strength can influence an individual’s health behaviour (Leary et al., 1986), specifically, their exercise behaviour (adoption & adherence). The identity that surfaces depends on one’s with relationship with people from a particular setting. Exercise identity and behaviour are often compared, as are commitment quantity and commitment quality.

Due to lack of research that includes all three measures, this survey would benefit exercise psychologists by providing a more in depth understanding in their approach to exercise interventions. The aim of this survey was to study the relationship between these measures: qualitative & quantitative commitment, exercise identity strength, and exercise behaviour.

It is hypothesized that commitment indirectly influences exercise behaviour, through the selection of a particular identity. Method Participants A total of 174 undergraduate university students (56 male and 118 female) enrolled in an exercise psychology course at UWO participated in this study. They ranged in age from 18 to 28 years (M = 20. 01, SD = 1. 35). Measures Three instruments were included during this survey: The Exercise Identity Scale, the Commitment Scale and the Godin Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire.

The 9-item Exercise Identity Scale was used to measure the salience of an individual’s identification with exercise as an integral part of their self-concept (Anderson & Cychosz, 1994). This was helpful in determining who would be least likely and most likely to successfully maintain an exercise program. Exercise identity was measured using a five point scale (1 = strongly disagree; 5 = strongly agree). A sample item includes: “Others see me as someone who is physically active”. A commitment scale was employed to measure interpersonal ties to others while being a student (Burkes & Reitzes, 1991), on a qualitative and quantitative basis.

Commitment quantity was measured using a five point scale (1 = none; 5 = all of them) A sample item from this scale included: “How many of your friends have you made through physical activity or exercise? ”. Commitment quality was measured using a five point scale (1 = not at all true for me; 5 = completely true for me). A sample item from this scale included: “Friends I have met while exercising or being physically active are important to me as an exerciser. ” However, these are examples, which were modified from the original scale and anchors.

The Godin Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire (Godin & Shepard, 1985) was used to determine frequencies of light, moderate and strenuous activities. Each bout must have lasted at least 15 minutes to be counted towards the total. Exercise frequencies were multiplied (x3 = light; x5 = moderate; x9 = strenuous), to determine a sum measured in arbitrary units. An example: Strenuous activity = 4 times/week; moderate activity = 5 times/week; light activity = 14 times/week A sample calculation for “total leisure activity score”: (9×4) + (5×5) + (3×14) = 36 + 25 + 42 = 103 Experimental Procedure.

First, ethical approval was granted to carry out this study. A questionnaire was devised, including a number of questions and components from each instrument. Consenting participants completed the questionnaire during class time, taking about 15 minutes to finish. The course teaching assistants (TAs) collected the surveys and the data was analyzed using statistical software SPSS 20. 0. Results Questions pertaining to exercise identity reported a mean of 3. 91 (SD = 0. 75), showing a strong reliability score with an alpha value of . 875. Questions focusing on commitment quantity reported a mean of 2.

11 (SD = 0. 69), with an alpha value of 0. 622. Commitment quality reported a mean of 3. 17 (SD = 1. 08), with a reliable alpha value of 0. 714. Exercise behaviour reported a mean of 64. 44 (SD = 29. 33). Upon completion of the survey, participants were categorized into four separate groups: 1. Those who had been exercising regularly for more than 6 months (120 participants) 2. Those who had been exercising regularly, but for less than 6 months (31 participants) 3. Those who had not been exercising regularly but intended to begin in the next 30 days (16 participants)

4.Those who had not been exercising regularly but intended to begin in the next 6 months (6 participants) The correlations between all variables used in the analyses are presented in Table 1. Discussion The aim of our survey was to study the relationship between qualitative and quantitative commitment, exercise identity strength, and exercise behaviour. Several observations were made based on the data of the survey. Individuals seemed to highly value the importance of exercise as a part of self-concept (M=3. 91). The vast majority of the participants (120 of 174) reported to have been following a habitual exercise regime for at least 6 months.

According to the Transtheoretical Model (Prochaska & Velicer, 1997), after 6 months of regular exercise, the habit will remain stable and can be maintained with relative ease. The data collected from the questions pulled from the Godin Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire material proved quite promising. The mean value for healthy adults reported by Godin & Shepard in 1985 was 45. 8. The data collected revealed that most individuals reported engaging in at least a sufficient amount of activity, with many participating in much more than suggested (M=64.44).

The mean value of questions pertaining to quantitative commitment (M = 2. 11), indicated a lower number of social relationships formed as an exerciser/athlete. This is congruent with Burke, Carron & Shapcott’s findings (2008) stating that university students are more likely to stay with an exercise group when they are attracted to the common goal. All other components of the group cohesion construct (Carron, Brawley & Widmeyer, 1998), specifically the social attraction to a group, are unimportant to a university student, regarding exercise adherence.

It was believed that due to an imbalance between the number of questions concerning quantitative commitment, the mean value was lowballed. However, most participants reported a high level of qualitative commitment (M = 3. 17). This led us to believe that despite forming fewer relationships through sport and exercise, individuals valued the relationships highly. Stets & Burke stated in 2003 that one is more committed to an identity when one strives harder to maintain a match between behavioural meaning and the meaning held in the identity standard.

This means that commitment moderates the link between identity and behavior by making it stronger (high commitment) or weaker (low commitment). As the participants were students in a kinesiology course, it was assumed that the survey would reveal many positive results concerning exercise identity, commitment and exercise behaviour. The first limitation of this study pertains to the method of data collection; a self-report questionnaire. Responses to the questions may be exaggerated, or embarrassment may lead subjects to withhold certain details.

Responses can also be biased based upon the participant’s feelings at the time; positive affect will make for positive responses, vice versa. Secondly, the study cannot be generalized. Results from a survey conducted upon a very specific group of university students will not yield the same data as subjects with varying physical abilities or exercise backgrounds. It was clear from the results of this survey that the participants were highly exercise oriented. Due to this fact, the survey should be distributed to an audience that is representative of North America.

For example, it could be circulated around a variety of courses offered by the university. On an individual scale, this questionnaire should serve as the first step in an intervention, to raise awareness concerning one’s own fitness habits and feelings towards exercise. References Anderson, D. F. , & Cychosz, C. M. (1994). Development of an exercise identity scale. Perceptutal and Motor Skills, 78 (3 part 1) 747-751. Burke, P. J. , & Reitzes, D. C. (1991). An identity theory approach to commitment. Social Psychology Quarterly, 54(3), 239-251. Burke, P. J. , & Stets, J. E. (2009). Identity Theory.

New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Burke, S. M. , Carron, A. V. , & Shapcott, K. M. (2008) Cohesion in exercise groups: An overview. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 1, 107-123. Carron A. V. , Brawley, L. R. , & Widmeyer, W. N. (1998). The measurement of cohesiveness in sports groups. In J. L Duda (Ed. ), Advances in sport and exercise psychology measurements (pp. 213-226). Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology. Godin, G. , & Shepard, R. J. (1997). Godin Leisure-Time Exercise Questionnaire. Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise. 29(6), S36-S39. House, J. S. , Landis, K. R. , Umberson, D.(1988).

Social relationships and health. Science, New Series, Vol. 241, No. 4865 (Jul. 29, 1988), 540-45. Leary, M. R. , Wheeler, D. S. , & Jenkins, T. B. (1986). Aspects of identity and behavioral preference: Studies of occupational and recreational choice. Social Psychology Quarterly, 49 (1986), 11–18. Prochaska, J. O. , & Velicer, W. F. (1997). The transtheoretical model of behavior change. American Journal of Health Promotion, 12, 38-48. Stets, J. E. , & Burke, P. J. (2003). A sociological approach to self and identity. Handbook of self and identity, 128-152. New York: Guilford Press. Strachan, S. M. , Brawley, L. R.

, Spink, K. S. , & Jung M. E. (2009). Strength of exercise identity-exercise consistency: Affective and social cognitive relationships. Journal of Health Psychology (2009), 1196-206. Tappe, M. K. , Duda, J. L. , Ehrnwald, P. M. (1989) Perceived barriers to exercise among adolescents. Journal of School Health, Vol. 59, Issue 4, 153-55. Table 1. Correlations Among Study Variables | Exercise Behaviour| Commitment Quality| Commitment Quantity| Identity| Exercise Behaviour| ___| | | | Commitment Quality| . 18**| ___ | | | Commitment Quantity| . 234**| . 479**| ___| | Identity| . 466**| . 133*| . 171*| ___| ** p < 0. 01 *p < 0. 05