Master of Science (MS)



Document Type



Every year thousands of overweight and obese people in the United States join weight loss programs such as Weight Watchers in an effort to become healthier and feel more attractive. Weight Watchers has increased its program focus on physical activity as a critical part of weight loss. Initiating a consistent physical activity routine, however, is generally one of the last behavior changes made by program members, despite its proven role in weight loss maintenance. Using self-determination theory as a framework, the purpose of this study was to examine how perceptions of fulfillment of three psychological needs (i.e. competence, autonomy, and relatedness), affected the motivation and physical activity patterns of five female Lifetime members of Weight Watchers, with the goal of exploring ways to facilitate motivation for physical activity in weight loss programs. The level of self-regulated motivation was also examined. Participants completed a Psychological Need Satisfaction in Exercise Questionnaire, kept written exercise logs, and participated in an in depth interview. Perceived need satisfaction for competence and autonomy facilitated participation in physical activity, but perceived relatedness was a key to overall psychological need satisfaction. Family, mind/body connections, and structure emerged as factors that served to enhance or constrain need satisfaction, and ultimately as either catalysts promoting need satisfaction or barriers to activity. Four participants mentioned guilt, an introjected externally-regulated motivation, as one motive for engaging in activity, but all five mentioned better health as a more internally-regulated motivation for their activity behaviors. Only one participant made comments that could be classified as indicative of intrinsic motivation for physical activity. The findings suggest that for weight loss programs to help their members lose weight, and keep it off, participation in physical activity should be introduced in a way that motivates the members to incorporate it into their daily routines. Stressing improved health and fitness as a valued outcome of regular participation in physical activity and encouraging individuals to identify ways to satisfy the psychological need of relatedness through family support and structure are strategies that emerged in this study as having the potential to facilitate long term behavior change.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Solmon, Melinda A



Included in

Kinesiology Commons