What motivates firefighters to exercise? A mixed-methods investigation of self-determination theory constructs and exercise behavior

Neil Long, Tucker Readdy, Johannes Raabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

It is well documented that cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a serious threat to firefighter health and safety, which arises from a combination of underlying CVD risk factors and physical stress applied to a firefighter's body during fire suppression (Drew-Nord, Hong, & Froelicher, 2009). Exercise has been related to decreased CVD risk in firefighter populations, and self-determination theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 2000) has been shown to be an effective motivational framework to promote exercise in a variety of populations (Deci & Ryan, 2008). The current mixed-methods research used SDT constructs, including basic psychological need satisfaction and perceived autonomy support, to better understand firefighters' motivation to engage in both aerobic and strength exercises. Eligible participants in a North American Western state were contacted to complete an online survey regarding exercise and motivation, while a smaller cohort also engaged in semistructured qualitative interviews. Hierarchical regression models revealed that SDT variables accounted for 16% of the variance in firefighter aerobic exercise (p < .01) and 34% of the variance in firefighter strength training (p < .01). Qualitative analysis revealed four emergent higher-order themes, including (a) multifaceted motivational orientations along the continuum of selfdetermination, (b) choices related to exercise, (c) the influence of administration and policies, and (d) social interactions in the firehouse. These themes embodied ways that autonomy support can be used to increase exercise motivation in the firehouse. Departments across the country can use the current research to enhance that motivation to exercise as a means to combat CVD risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-218
Number of pages16
JournalSport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology
Volume3
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

Fingerprint

Firefighters
Personal Autonomy
Exercise
Motivation
Cardiovascular Diseases
Resistance Training
Interpersonal Relations
Research
Population
Interviews
Psychology
Safety

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Applied Psychology

Cite this

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title = "What motivates firefighters to exercise? A mixed-methods investigation of self-determination theory constructs and exercise behavior",
abstract = "It is well documented that cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a serious threat to firefighter health and safety, which arises from a combination of underlying CVD risk factors and physical stress applied to a firefighter's body during fire suppression (Drew-Nord, Hong, & Froelicher, 2009). Exercise has been related to decreased CVD risk in firefighter populations, and self-determination theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 2000) has been shown to be an effective motivational framework to promote exercise in a variety of populations (Deci & Ryan, 2008). The current mixed-methods research used SDT constructs, including basic psychological need satisfaction and perceived autonomy support, to better understand firefighters' motivation to engage in both aerobic and strength exercises. Eligible participants in a North American Western state were contacted to complete an online survey regarding exercise and motivation, while a smaller cohort also engaged in semistructured qualitative interviews. Hierarchical regression models revealed that SDT variables accounted for 16{\%} of the variance in firefighter aerobic exercise (p < .01) and 34{\%} of the variance in firefighter strength training (p < .01). Qualitative analysis revealed four emergent higher-order themes, including (a) multifaceted motivational orientations along the continuum of selfdetermination, (b) choices related to exercise, (c) the influence of administration and policies, and (d) social interactions in the firehouse. These themes embodied ways that autonomy support can be used to increase exercise motivation in the firehouse. Departments across the country can use the current research to enhance that motivation to exercise as a means to combat CVD risk.",
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