Current Psychology

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 250–262 | Cite as

Zooming in on the Effects: a Controlled Trial on Motivation and Exercise Behaviour in a Digital Context

  • Karin Weman-JosefssonEmail author
  • Urban Johnson
  • Magnus Lindwall


This study is a description of a short-term digital exercise intervention based on the theoretical framework self-determination theory and tested in a controlled trial. The sample consisted of 318 adult women (n = 279) and men (n = 40) aged 23–67 years (M = 46.7; SD = 9.4) participating in a digital step contest provided by their employer. All participants completed study baseline measures via validated web-based versions of the following instruments: Basic Psychological Needs in Exercise Scale, Behavioural Regulations in Exercise Questionnaire-2, and Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire. These measures were repeated twice, 3 weeks (post-intervention) and 6 weeks (follow-up) after study baseline. The experimental group had access to the intervention platform for three weeks. Data were analysed by analyses of covariance and mediation variable analysis. Results showed the intervention to affect exercise level and intensity as well as basic psychological need satisfaction and behavioural regulations. Intervention effects on amotivation post-intervention were found to mediate total exercise behaviour at follow-up. Moderation analyses showed intervention effects on light exercise to be stronger for those participants engaging in moderate or high levels of light activities at study baseline. Also, the effect on identified regulation was stronger for those with low levels of identified regulation at study baseline. This study adds to the knowledge on exercise motivation based on short-term intervention effects on level and intensity of exercise and physical activity. The use of mediating and moderating analyses uncover processes underlying the main intervention effects. Findings are discussed in relation to self-determination theory and previous research.


Exercise Intervention Mediation Moderation Self-determination 



This study was funded by Halmstad University, University of Gothenburg and the Swedish KK-foundation.

Author’s Contributions

KWJ participated in the study design, data collection, drafting and finalizing the manuscript and was responsible for the statistical analyses. ML supervised and participated in the writing process, and UJ participated in study design and manuscript writing. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Competing Interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethics, Consent and Permissions

The intervention trial was approved by the regional ethics board (Dnr. Etik 2014/336) and guided by the CONSORT checklist. Participation was voluntary and all respondents completed informed consent.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research on Welfare, Health and SportHalmstad UniversityHalmstadSweden
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  3. 3.Department of Food and Nutrition, and Sport ScienceUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden

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