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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Locus of control and adherence to exercise programs McCready, Marina Loi


Many exercise adherence studies have attempted to identify characteristics associated with dropout behavior, however few of these have been grounded in theory. The purpose of this investigation was to examine the relationship between exercise program adherence and the social psychological construct, locus of control. As a multidimensional concept, locus of control may be described as a person's generalized expectancy to perceive reinforcements as being: dependent upon their own behavior or characteristics (internal control); under the control of powerful other people (powerful others control); or the result of forces beyond their control (chance control). Social learning theory, out of which locus of control developed, emphasizes the importance of measuring reinforcement value along with locus of control when predicting behavior. Consistent with this concept, exercise adherence was expected to be greatest among those who highly value one or more exercise reinforcements (e.g., release of tension) and have an internal locus of control (i.e., a high expectancy that their behavior will result in the reinforcement). In contrast, adherence was expected to be negatively related to the combined effects of reinforcement value and external locus of control (powerful others or chance). A number of demographic, behavioral, and situational factors were also examined in relation to exercise adherence. The subjects were 61 females (48 registered and 13 drop-in) aged 15-57, (M=28) who had voluntarily elected to participate in 8-12 week aerobic fitness programs. The primary instruments employed in this study were: the Internal, Powerful Others, and Chance Scales; the Exercise Objectives Locus of Control Scales, developed by the investigator; and the Revised Children's Attitudes Toward Physical Activity inventory. Adherence data were determined from class attendance sheets. Findings suggest that locus of control measures combined with values held toward physical activity are not very strongly related to exercise program adherence. Results of stepwise multiple regression analyses revealed that two attitudes were the best predictors of exercise adherence. In general, those subjects who, at the outset of the program, had a less positive attitude toward participating in physical activity for continuing social relations and a more positive attitude toward participating in order to reduce stress and tension—tended to have a higher percent attendance. Findings also indicated that there is no statistically significant relationship between exercise adherence and any of the following variables: age, percent leisure time activity, smoking, employment status, nonleisure exertion, spouse support, family support, enrolling with or without a friend, previous number of program enrollments or completions, sports participation, previous individual exercise habits, social desirability, exercise goals, expected success and success in goal attainment. Implications of these results and suggestions for future adherence studies were discussed.

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