Motivational profiles and change in physical activity during a weight loss intervention: a secondary data analysis

Danielle M. Ostendorf, Sarah J. Schmiege, David E. Conroy, Suzanne Phelan, Angela D. Bryan, Victoria A. Catenacci

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1 Scopus citations


Background: High levels of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) are strongly associated with sustained weight loss, however the majority of adults are unsuccessful in maintaining high levels of MVPA long-term. Our goal was to identify profiles based on exercise motives, and examine the association between motivational profile and longitudinal changes in MVPA during a weight loss intervention. Methods: Adults with overweight or obesity (n = 169, mean ± SE; age 39 ± 0.7 years, BMI 34.4 ± 0.3 kg/m2, 83% female) underwent an 18-month behavioral weight loss program, including 6 months of supervised exercise, followed by 6 months of unsupervised exercise. Participants self-reported behavioral regulations for exercise at baseline (BREQ-2). Latent profile analysis identified subgroups from external, introjected, identified, and intrinsic regulations measured at baseline. Mean differences in device-measured total MVPA were compared across motivational profiles at baseline, after 6 months of supervised exercise and after a subsequent 6 months of unsupervised exercise. Results: Three motivational profiles emerged: high autonomous (high identified and intrinsic, low external regulations; n = 52), high combined (high scores on all exercise regulations; n = 25), and moderate combined (moderate scores on all exercise regulations; n = 92). Motivational profile was not associated with baseline level of MVPA or the increase in MVPA over the 6-month supervised exercise intervention (high autonomous: 21 ± 6 min/d; high combined: 20 ± 9 min/d; moderate combined: 33 ± 5 min/d; overall P > 0.05). However, during the transition from supervised to unsupervised exercise, MVPA decreased, on average, within all three profiles, but the high autonomous profile demonstrated the least attenuation in MVPA (− 3 ± 6 min/d) compared to the moderate combined profile (− 20 ± 5 min/d; P = 0.043). Conclusions: Results were in alignment with the Self-Determination Theory. Adults motivated by autonomous reasons (value benefits of exercise, intrinsic enjoyment) may be more likely to sustain increases in MVPA once support is removed, whereas participants with moderate-to-high scores on all types of exercise regulations may need additional long-term support in order to sustain initial increases in MVPA. Clinical trial registration: NCT01985568. Registered 24 October 2013.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number158
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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