The Role of Motivation in a School-Based Physical Activity Intervention

Samantha Adelsberg, Fordham University


Introduction: Minority children who live in low socioeconomic neighborhoods exhibit extremely high rates of overweight and obesity. One means of addressing this obesity crisis is to increase physical activity by promoting school-based physical activity interventions. To do so, it is important to understand the psychological factors such as motivation that support engagement in such interventions and as a result, increases in physical activity. The overall goal of the present study was to expand our understanding of the motivational processes underlying physical activity behavior and attitudes towards engagement in physical activity in a primarily Hispanic youth population. This was accomplished through evaluation of the 4toFit program. The first aim was to examine the impact of motivational climate within 4toFit on physical fitness outcomes. The second aim of this study was to assess the relationship among motivational climates and factors that might impact individual intrinsic motivation and physical activity levels. Methods: The study included 214 students ages 14-18 years old across three groups: a comparison group; Full-4toFit; and Half-4toFit. The target intervention (4toFit) is a physical education intervention that was implemented in five NYC public high schools in low socio-economic communities. First, ANCOVA were used to examine the impact of motivational climate, as defined by participation in one of the three groups, on changes in intrinsic motivation, BMI and physical fitness outcomes from baseline to post-intervention. Second, an SEM linear path model was used to test the associations among motivational climate, and individual factors of goal orientation, competence, autonomy, relatedness, and their impact on intrinsic motivation and physical fitness across all three groups. Results: Regarding the first aim, results indicated that students who participated in Full-4toFit exhibited increased fitness levels, as compared to the other intervention groups. However, contrary to predictions, participating in 4toFit was not related to changes in BMI or intrinsic motivation. In examining the motivation model as the second aim, mastery climate predicted increased task orientation, which, in turn, positively predicted feelings of relatedness and autonomy, but not competence. Furthermore, only feelings of relatedness directly predicted intrinsic motivation. Contrary to initial hypotheses, intrinsic motivation did not significantly predict changes in physical fitness level. Conclusion: This study highlights the importance of creating appropriate social conditions to support minority adolescents to be more physically active within physical education. The data suggests that school-based PE interventions can increase student’s physical fitness but underscores the importance of PE teachers promoting class environments that are mastery focused, as this facilitates increased feelings of autonomy and relatedness.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Adelsberg, Samantha, "The Role of Motivation in a School-Based Physical Activity Intervention" (2021). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28152965.