Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, 42:188

The Relationship of Physical Activity and the Built Environment within the Context of Self-Determination Theory

  • Jennifer L. Gay
  • Ruth P. Saunders
  • Marsha Dowda
Original Article



Evidence is emerging of the combined effects of psychosocial and environmental determinants on exercise.


This study aims to examine the moderating effects of convenience, facilities at places of worship, access, crime/safety, and neighborhood characteristics on the relationship between exercise and psychosocial needs satisfaction (autonomy, competence, and relatedness).


Adults from four cities enrolling in a weight loss program (N = 477; 72.1% White, BMI = 32.21 ± 7.67) completed questionnaires on current exercise levels, perceptions of the environment for exercise, and autonomy, competence, and relatedness.


There were significant interaction effects for neighborhood characteristics with all three psychological needs satisfaction, and for convenience with competence and relatedness, such that the relationship between psychosocial needs satisfaction and exercise is stronger for participants with better perceptions of convenience and neighborhood characteristics.


Results indicate that the relationship between exercise and autonomy, competence, and relatedness is different for low and high perceptions of convenience to places for exercise and neighborhood characteristics.


Physical activity Adults Access Convenience Need satisfaction 


  1. 1.
    Sallis JF. Measuring physical activity environments: A brief history. Am J Prev Med 2009 April;36(4 Suppl):S86-S92.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    McLeroy KR, Bibeau D, Steckler A, Glanz K. An ecological perspective on health promotion programs. Health Educ Q 1988;15(4):351–77.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Sallis JF, Cervero RB, Ascher W, Henderson KA, Kraft MK, Kerr J. An ecological approach to creating active living communities. Annu Rev Public Health 2006;27:297–322.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Humpel N, Owen N, Leslie E. Environmental factors associated with adults' participation in physical activity: A review. Am J Prev Med 2002;22(3):188–99.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Sallis JF, Saelens BE, Frank LD et al. Neighborhood built environment and income: Examining multiple health outcomes. Soc Sci Med 2009 April;68(7):1285–93.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Merom D, Bauman A, Phongsavan P et al. Can a motivational intervention overcome an unsupportive environment for walking—findings from the Step-by-Step Study. Ann Behav Med 2009 October;38(2):137–46.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Ferney SL, Marshall AL, Eakin EG, Owen N. Randomized trial of a neighborhood environment-focused physical activity website intervention. Prev Med 2009 February;48(2):144–50.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    McNeill LH, Wyrwich KW, Brownson RC, Clark EM, Kreuter MW. Individual, social environmental, and physical environmental influences on physical activity among black and white adults: A structural equation analysis. Ann Behav Med 2006;31(1):36–44.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Giles-Corti B, Donovan RJ. Relative influences of individual, social environmental, and physical environmental correlates of walking. Am J Public Health 2003;93:1583–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Dowda M, Dishman RK, Porter D, Saunders RP, Pate RR. Commercial facilities, social cognitive variables, and physical activity of 12th grade girls. Ann Behav Med 2009 February;37(1):77–87.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Task Force on Community Preventive Services (2002) Recommendations to increase physical activity in communities. Am J Prev Med; 22(4S):67–72.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Edmunds J, Ntoumanis N, Duda JL. A test of self-determination theory in the exercise domain. J Appl Soc Psycho 2006;36(9):2240–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Ntoumanis N. A prospective study of participation in optional school physical education using a self-determination theory framework. J Educ Psychol 2005;97(3):444–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Wilson PM, Mack DE, Grattan KP. Understanding motivation for exercise: A self-determination theory perspective. Can Psychol 2008;49(3):250–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Edmunds J, Ntoumanis N, Duda JL. Adherence and well-being in overweight and obese patients referred to an exercise on prescription scheme: A self-determination theory perspective. Psychol Sport Exerc 2007;8:722–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Wilson PM, Rodgers WM, Blanchard CM, Gessell J. The relationship between psychological needs, self-determined motivation, exercise attitudes, and physical fitness. J Appl Soc Psycho 2003;33(11):2373–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Jolly K, Duda JL, Daley A et al. Evaluation of a standard provision versus an autonomy promotive exercise referral programme: Rationale and study design. BMC Public Health 2009 June 8;9(1):176.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Ryan RM, Deci EL. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemp Educ Psychol 2000;25:54–67.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Edmunds J, Ntoumanis N, Duda JL. Testing a self-determination theory-based teaching style intervention in the exercise domain. Eur J Soc Psychol 2008;38:375–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Brownson RC, Hoehner CM, Day K, Forsyth A, Sallis JF. Measuring the built environment for physical activity: State of the science. Am J Prev Med 2009 April;36(4 Suppl):S99-123.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Spence JC, Lee RE. Toward a comprehensive model of physical activity. Psychol Sport Exerc 2003;4:7–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Gay J, Smith J. Validity of a scale assessing the built environment for physical activity. Am J Health Behav 2010;34(4):420–31.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Godin G, Shephard RJ. A simple method to assess exercise behavior in the community. Can J Sport Sci 1985;10(3):141–6.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Godin G, Shephard RJ. Godin leisure-time exercise questionnaire. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1997;29(6 Supplement):S36-S38.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Rogers LQ, Courneya KS, Robbins KT et al. Physical activity and quality of life in head and neck cancer survivors. Support Care Cancer 2006;14(10):1012–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Jacobs DR, Ainsworth BE, Hartman TJ, Leon AS. A simultaneous evaluation of ten commonly used physical activity questionnaires. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1993;25:81–91.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Motl RW, McAuley E, Snook EM, Scott JA. Validity of physical activity measures in ambulatory individuals with multiple sclerosis. Disabil Rehabil 2006 September 30;28(18):1151–6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Vlachopoulos SP, Michailidou S. Development and initial validation of a measure of autonomy, competence, and relatedness in exercise: The basic psychological needs in exercise scale. Meas Phys Educ Exerc Sci 2006;10(3):179–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Cronbach LJ. Coefficient alpha and the internal structure of tests. Psychometrika 1951;16(3):297–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Evenson KR, McGinn AP. Test-retest reliability of a questionnaire to assess physical environmental factors pertaining to physical activity. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 2005;2(7).Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Sallis JF, Johnson MF, Calfas KJ, Caparosa S, Nichols JF. Assessing perceived physical environmental variables that may influence physical activity. Res Q Exerc Sport 1997;68(4):345–51.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Gay JL, Evenson KR, Smith J. Developing measures on the perceptions of the built environment for physical activity: A confirmatory analysis. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 2010;7(72).Google Scholar
  33. 33. [computer program]. Portland, OR:; 2008.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Preacher KJ, Curran PJ, Bauer DJ. Computational tools for probing interactions in multiple linear regression, multilevel modeling, and latent curve analysis. J Educ Behav Stat 2006; 31(3):437–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Preacher KJ, Curran PJ, Bauer DJ. Simple Intercepts, Simple Slopes, and Regions of Significance in MLR 2-Way Interactions.∼preacher/interact/mlr2.htm 2006; Available at: URL:∼preacher/interact/mlr2.htm.
  36. 36.
    Peddle CJ, Plotnikoff RC, Wild TC, Au HJ, Courneya KS. Medical, demographic, and psychosocial correlates of exercise in colorectal cancer survivors: An application of self-determination theory. Support Care Cancer 2008 January;16(1):9–17.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Giles-Corti B, Donovan RJ. The relative influence of individual, social and physical environment determinants of physical activity. Soc Sci Med 2002;54:1793–812.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Cerin E, Leslie E, Owen N, Bauman A. An Australian version of the neighborhood environment walkability scale: Validity evidence. Meas Phys Educ Exerc Sci 2008;12:31–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Wilcox S, Bopp M, Oberrecht L, Kammermann SK, McElmurray CT. Psychosocial and perceived environmental correlates of physical activity in rural and older African American and white women. J Geronotol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 2003;58B(6):329–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Trost SG, Owen N, Bauman A, Sallis JF, Brown W. Correlates of adults’ participation in physical activity: Review and update. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2002;34(12):1996–2001.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Gattshall ML, Shoup JA, Marshall JA, Crane LA, Estabrooks PA. Validation of a survey instrument to assess home environments for physical activity and healthy eating in overweight children. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 2008;5:3.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    King WC, Brach JS, Belle S, Killingsworth R, Fenton M, Kriska AM. The relationship between convenience of destinations and walking levels in older women. Am J Health Promot 2003 September;18(1):74–82.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Parks SE, Housemann RA, Brownson RC. Differential correlates of physical activity in urban and rural adults of various socioeconomic backgrounds in the United States. J Epidemiol Community Health 2003;57:29–35.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Powell KE, Martin LM, Chowdhury PP. Places to walk: Convenience and regular physical activity. Am J Public Health 2003;93(9):1519–21.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Johnson-Kozlow M, Sallis JF, Gilpin EA, Rock CL, Pierce JP. Comparative validation of the IPAQ and the 7-Day PAR among women diagnosed with breast cancer. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 2006;3:7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    McGinn AP, Evenson KR, Herring AH, Huston SL, Rodriguez DA. Exploring associations between physical activity and perceived and objective measures of the built environment. J Urban Health 2007 March;84(2):162–84.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Tilt JH, Unfried TM, Roca B. Using objective and subjective measures of neighborhood greenness and accessible destinations for understanding walking trips and BMI in Seattle, Washington. Am J Health Promot 2007;21(4 Supplement):371–9.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Cheung GW, Lau RS. Testing mediation and suppression effects of latent variables. Organizational Research Methods 2008;11(2):296–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    McCormack G, Giles-Corti B, Lange A, Smith T, Martin K, Pikora TJ. An update of recent evidence of the relationship between objective and self-report measures of the physical environment and physical activity behaviours. J Sci Med Sport 2004 April;7(1 Suppl):81–92.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Wendel-Vos W, Droomers M, Kremers S, Brug J, van Lenthe F. Potential environmental determinants of physical activity in adults: A systematic review. Obes Rev 2007 September;8(5):425–40.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer L. Gay
    • 1
  • Ruth P. Saunders
    • 2
  • Marsha Dowda
    • 3
  1. 1.Division of Health Promotion & Behavioral SciencesUniversity of Texas School of Public HealthBrownsvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Health Promotion, Education, and BehaviorUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Exercise ScienceUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  4. 4.Assistant Professor – Health Promotion and Behavior College of Public HealthUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

Personalised recommendations