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Does self-compassion matter beyond self-esteem for women's self-determined motives to exercise and exercise outcomes?



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According to the Canadian Community Health Survey, fifty-nine percent of Canadian women are not getting enough exercise to receive health benefits (Canadian Fitness & Lifestyle Institute, 2001). Engaging in regular exercise has been found to provide significant psychological and physical health benefits, such as reduced depression, anxiety, and increased well-being (Bouchard, Shephard, Stephens, Sutton, & Mcpherson, 1990; Georgia State University, 1997; National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 1999; Roth & Holmes, 1987). Therefore, increasing exercise participation contributes to enhancing the well-being of women. The purpose of this study was to examine how self-compassion would be related to self-determined motives to exercise and to outcomes in the exercise domain, and whether self-compassion would explain unique variance beyond self-esteem on those variables. There were two main hypotheses. First, that self-compassion would be positively related to identified, integrated, and intrinsic motives to exercise and to task goals; and negatively related to external and introjected motives to exercise, ego goals, social physique anxiety, and obligatory exercise. Second, it was hypothesized that self-compassion would predict unique variance over and above self-esteem with motivation, goal orientation, physique anxiety, and exercise behaviour. The participants were 252 adult female exercisers, ranging in age from 17 to 43 years, recruited from a small mid-western Canadian university. Participants completed an online survey including the Behavioural Regulations in Exercise Questionnaire (Wilson, Rodgers, Loitz, & Scime, 2006), Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Questionnaire (Rosenberg, 1965), the Self-Compassion Scale (Neff, 2003b), the Goal Orientation in Exercise Measure (Petherick & Markland, 2005), the Social Physique Anxiety Scale (Martin, Rejeski, Leary, McAuley, & Bane, 1997), the Obligatory Exercise Questionnaire (Pasman & Thompson, 1998), and the Godin Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire (Godin & Shepard, 1985). Correlational analyses revealed that self-compassion was positively related to intrinsic motivation (r = 0.19), and negatively related to external (r = -0.24) and introjected (r = -0.41) motivation, ego goals (r = -.20), social physique anxiety (r = -.57), and obligatory exercise behaviour (r = -.24). Hierarchical regression analyses showed that self-compassion contributed negative unique variance over and above self-esteem on introjected motivation (∆R2 = .035), ego goals (∆R2 = .028), social physique anxiety (∆R2 = .042), and obligatory exercise (∆R2 = .018). The present study provides evidence that self-compassion is related to motives to exercise and various outcomes of exercise. Further, this study extends the use of self-determination theory and supports that future research continue to explore the role of self-concept in motivation. Outcomes of well-being were found to be related to self-compassion, suggesting that perhaps self-compassion is a promising construct that may be used to foster long-term women’s exercise motives.



social physique anxiety, goal orientations, obligatory exercise, self-determination theory



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


College of Kinesiology


College of Kinesiology


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