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Exercise results in numerous health promoting benefits, such as improved health-related quality of life, reduced stress, and improved physical functioning. However, much of the research in exercise and health psychology has focused on starting and increasing exercise. In contrast, limited research has investigated the subset of the population who maintain exercise. Identifying psychosocial processes that are involved in successful self-regulation and, in turn, long-term exercise maintenance is needed. Maintaining engagement in exercise requires self-regulation for successful pursuit over weeks, months, and years. Previous research has attempted to compile, describe, and explain different theoretical ideas of maintenance, identifying several key motives, with accompanying psychosocial factors. Considerable exercise research exists using various psychosocial factors (e.g., self-regulatory efficacy) to differentiate individuals meeting and not meeting public health guidelines. However, evidence is lacking on how individuals consistently self-manage their schedule, reach personal goals, and maintain their personally-set weekly exercise frequency. Thus, the primary study purpose was to determine whether individuals who differed in their weekly exercise frequency differed in psychosocial factors that were identified in prior research as providing theoretical explanations about how individuals maintain health behaviours over time. Based on the assumption that higher weekly exercise frequency patterns require the greatest challenge to maintain (Chao, Foy, & Farmer, 2000; Kwasnicka, Dombrowski, White, & Sniehotta, 2016), the group with the highest frequency of exercise maintenance was hypothesized to report significantly greater scores for the value of, and satisfaction with proximal and distal outcome expectations and various self-efficacy beliefs compared to low frequency maintainers. The secondary study purpose was to determine whether individuals who approached the exercise public health recommendation differed from a group who exceeded the recommendation relative to the same psychosocial factors as mentioned for the primary study purpose. Participants were 357 self-identified exercise maintainers (M = 31.88 ± 11.89 years) with an average 6.98 ± 3.92 years of maintenance of their weekly exercise frequency pattern. Maintainers included individuals who consistently followed their pattern of weekly exercise for more 6+ months for at least 2 days per week lasting 30 minutes or more. An online survey assessing outcome expectations, satisfaction, self-regulatory efficacy to overcome barriers, recovery efficacy, task self-efficacy, exercise level relative to the public health recommendation, and awareness of the public health recommendation was completed. To assess the primary purpose, three groups were identified based on frequency of weekly exercise bouts: low, 2-3 days (n = 79); medium, 4-5 days (n = 178); and high, 6-7 days (n = 100). A MANOVA revealed that high frequency maintainers reported significantly higher ratings of proximal satisfaction with outcome expectations, distal satisfaction with outcome expectations, self-regulatory efficacy to overcome barriers, and recovery efficacy than low frequency maintainers. To assess the secondary purpose, two groups were identified based on whether participants self-identified as approaching/meeting (n = 71) or exceeding (n = 286) the public health exercise recommendation. A MANOVA revealed that exercise maintainers exceeding the public health exercise recommendation reported significantly higher ratings of value of distal outcome expectations, proximal satisfaction with outcome expectations, distal satisfaction with outcome expectations, self-regulatory efficacy to overcome barriers, and recovery efficacy than those approaching/meeting the recommendation. Further, only 56 individuals reported being correctly aware of the public health recommendation. In conclusion, this study was one of the first in the exercise literature to identify psychosocial factors consistent with maintenance theorizing and begins to fill a gap in this under-investigated area. Findings provide initial support for the notion that psychosocial factors involved in the successful self-management of individuals’ maintenance of exercise frequency appear to be related to personal behavioral goals. This conclusion is strengthened by the finding that the present maintainer sample was unaware of, or incorrect about, public health recommendation.



exercise, maintenance, frequency, psychosocial, public health, recommendation



Master of Science (M.Sc.)






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