Motivations Toward Exercise Participation: Active Persons With Multiple Sclerosis Have Greater Self-directed and Self-capable Motivations

  • Yvonne C. Learmonth
    Corresponding authorYvonne C. Learmonth, PhD, Murdoch University, 90 South St, Murdoch 6150, Western Australia.
    Discipline of Exercise Science, Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia

    Perron Institute for Neurological and Translational Science, Perth, Western Australia

    Centre for Molecular Medicine and Innovative Therapeutics, Murdoch University, Western Australia
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  • Brody Heritage
    Discipline of Psychology, Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia
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Published:December 01, 2020DOI:


      • Exercise is one means that has been shown to aid in the management of multiple sclerosis symptoms and enhance well-being outcomes in multiple sclerosis.
      • Active exercisers who have multiple sclerosis perceived higher levels of autonomous motivation toward exercise and stronger positive attitudes toward the value of exercise compared with insufficiently active exercisers with multiple sclerosis.
      • Clinicians should aim to highlight beneficial outcomes from exercise to clients and allow clients individual discretion in how to engage in exercise.



      To investigate differences in motivation perceptions toward exercise per self-determination theory and theory of planned behavior between active and insufficiently active persons with multiple sclerosis, given the well-being enhancements associated with exercise engagement for this population.


      Cross-sectional between-groups design where active persons 14 points on the Godin Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire, and insufficiently active <14.


      Community setting in Australia.


      Australian participants (N=70; mean age, 49.61±12.79y; FIM 64:6; Patient Disability Disease Steps median, 3).


      Not applicable.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Godin Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire and adaptations of the self-determination theory (autonomous and controlling forms of motivation) and the Theory of Planned Behavior (attitudes to exercise, subjective norms to exercise, behavioral control to exercise, intention to exercise) items tailored toward exercise perceptions.


      Active persons perceived higher ratings compared with insufficiently active persons of autonomous motivations toward their exercise d=0.85 in addition to positive attitudes toward the value of exercise d=1.28, their behavioral control over exercise d=1.86, and their enhanced intentions to engage in exercise d=1.14. All effect sizes were large (d>0.80).


      These findings suggest the value of considering ways of enhancing the perceived autonomy toward engaging in physical activity in addition to the reduction of barriers toward participating and enhancing positive attitudes toward the value of physical activity when practitioners are working with persons living with multiple sclerosis.


      List of abbreviations:

      HDI (highest density interval), MS (multiple sclerosis), SDT (self-determination theory), TPB (theory of planned behavior)
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