Skip to main content

Mindfulness May Moderate the Relationship Between Intrinsic Motivation and Physical Activity: A Cross-Sectional Study


This study aims to characterize the relationships between intrinsic motivation toward physical activity, mindfulness, and physical activity level. We measured self-reported mindfulness, motivational regulation toward exercise, and physical activity level in 280 French students. Analyses conducted on 244 participants revealed that self-reported mindfulness moderates the relationship between intrinsic motivation toward exercise and physical activity levels. These findings may have implications for interventionists seeking to promote increased physical activity with mindfulness-based techniques. In fact, it seems that increasing mindfulness skills of individuals could improve their intrinsic motivation to exercise and, thus, physical activity.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  • Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator–mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(6), 1173–1182.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Biddle, S., & Mutrie, N. (2008). Psychology of physical activity: determinants, well-being, and interventions (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 822–848. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.84.4.822.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Butryn, M. L., Forman, E., Hoffman, K., Shaw, J., & Juarascio, A. (2011). A pilot study of acceptance and commitment therapy for promotion of physical activity. Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 8(4), 516–522.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chatzisarantis, N. L. D., & Hagger, M. S. (2007). Mindfulness and the intention-behavior relationship within the theory of planned behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33(5), 663–676. doi:10.1177/0146167206297401.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Craig, C. L., Marshall, A. L., Sjostrom, M., Bauman, A. E., Booth, M. L., Ainsworth, B. E., & Oja, P. (2003). International physical activity questionnaire: 12-country reliability and validity. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 35(8), 1381–1395. doi:10.1249/01.MSS.0000078924.61453.FB.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Csillik, A. S., Mahr, S., & Meyer, T. (2010). The mindful attention awareness scale (MAAS) French validation: convergent and divergent validity. Paper presented at the Quatrième congrès international de la théorie de l’autodétermination, Gand, Belgium.

  • Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Dutton, G. R. (2008). The role of mindfulness in health behavior change. ACSM Health & Fitness Journal, 12(4), 7–12. doi:10.1249/FIT.0b013e31817bf5db.

    Google Scholar 

  • Edmunds, J., Ntoumanis, N., & Duda, J. L. (2008). Testing a self-determination theory-based teaching style intervention in the exercise domain. European Journal of Social Psychology, 38(2), 375–388. doi:10.1002/ejsp.463.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fortier, M. S., Sweet, S. N., O’Sullivan, T. L., & Williams, G. C. (2007). A self-determination process model of physical activity adoption in the context of a randomized controlled trial. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 8(5), 741–757. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2006.10.006.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hagger, M. S., & Chatzisarantis, N. (2007). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in exercise and sport. Champaign: Human Kinetics.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K. D., Wilson, K. G., Bissett, R. T., Pistorello, J., Toarmino, D., & Bergan, J. (2004). Measuring experiential avoidance: a preliminary test of a working model. Psychological Record, 54(4), 553–578.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jolly, K., Duda, J. L., Daley, A., Eves, F. F., Mutrie, N., Ntoumanis, N., & Williams, G. C. (2009). Evaluation of a standard provision versus an autonomy promotive exercise referral programme: rationale and study design. BMC Public Health, 9, 176. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-176.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Keadle, S. K. (2012). The influence of free-living activity and inactivity on health outcomes and responsiveness to exercise training. (PhD), University of Massachusetts.

  • Levesque, C., & Brown, K. W. (2007). Mindfulness as a moderator of the effect of implicit motivational self-concept on day-to-day behavioral motivation. Motivation and Emotion, 31(4), 284–299. doi:10.1007/s11031-007-9075-8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lillis, J., Hayes, S. C., Bunting, K., & Masuda, A. (2009). Teaching acceptance and mindfulness to improve the lives of the obese: a preliminary test of a theoretical model. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 37(1), 58–69. doi:10.1007/s12160-009-9083-x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lloyd-Jones, D. M., Hong, Y., Labarthe, D., Mozaffarian, D., Appel, L. J., Van Horn, L., & Rosamond, W. D. (2010). Defining and setting national goals for cardiovascular health promotion and disease reduction: The American Heart Association’s strategic impact goal through 2020 and beyond. Circulation, 121(4), 586–613. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.192703.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Markland, D., & Tobin, V. (2004). A modification to the behavioural regulation in exercise questionnaire to include an assessment of amotivation. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 26(2), 191–196.

    Google Scholar 

  • Netz, Y., & Lidor, R. (2003). Mood alterations in mindful versus aerobic exercise modes. The Journal of Psychology, 137(5), 405–419.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Orrow, G., Kinmonth, A. L., Sanderson, S., & Sutton, S. (2012). Effectiveness of physical activity promotion based in primary care: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ, 344, e1389–e1389. doi:10.1136/bmj.e1389.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • R Core Team. (2013). R: a language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ramírez, A. S., Finney Rutten, L. J., Vanderpool, R. C., Moser, R. P., & Hesse, B. W. (2013). Correlates and geographic patterns of knowledge that physical activity decreases cancer risk. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 34(1–2), 31–39. doi:10.1007/s10935-012-0289-5.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Rigby, C. S., Schultz, P. P., & Ryan, R. M. (2014). Mindfulness, interest-taking, and self-regulation. In A. Ie, C. T. Ngnoumen, & E. J. Langer (Eds.), The Wiley Blackwell handbook of mindfulness (pp. 216–235): John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

  • Roberts, K. C., & Danoff-Burg, S. (2010). Mindfulness and health behaviors: is paying attention good for you? Journal of American College Health, 59(3), 165–173. doi:10.1080/07448481.2010.484452.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68–78.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Salmon, P., Lush, E., Jablonski, M., & Sephton, S. E. (2009). Yoga and mindfulness: clinical aspects of an ancient mind/body practice. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 16(1), 59–72. doi:10.1016/j.cbpra.2008.07.002.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tapper, K., Shaw, C., Ilsley, J., Hill, A. J., Bond, F. W., & Moore, L. (2009). Exploratory randomised controlled trial of a mindfulness-based weight loss intervention for women. Appetite, 52(2), 396–404. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2008.11.012.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Tsafou, K. E., DeRidder, D. T. D., vanEe, R., & Lacroix, J. P. W. (2015). Mindfulness and satisfaction in physical activity: a cross-sectional study in the Dutch population. Journal of health psychology, 1–11. doi: 10.1177/1359105314567207

  • Ulmer, C. S., Stetson, B. A., & Salmon, P. G. (2010). Mindfulness and acceptance are associated with exercise maintenance in YMCA exercisers. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 48(8), 805–809. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2010.04.009.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Williams, J. M. G., & Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Mindfulness: diverse perspectives on its meanings, origins and applications. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • World Health Organization. (2010). Global recommendations on physical activity for health. Retrieved from

Download references


The authors would like to acknowledge Lise Anhoury (French Institute of Sport) and Joan Tihy (University of Caen) for the data collection, Nelly Erichot (Paris Descartes University) and Christophe Gernigon (Univeristy of Montpellier) for various comments on the manuscript, Catherine O’Malley and Laura Killian for translation corrections.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alexis Ruffault.

Ethics declarations

All the participants gave their signed agreement to participate in the study. Participants were given a random code to withdraw from the study at any time after they filled out the questionnaires, upon their request. Institutional ethical approval was sought and given.

Funding Source


Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ruffault, A., Bernier, M., Juge, N. et al. Mindfulness May Moderate the Relationship Between Intrinsic Motivation and Physical Activity: A Cross-Sectional Study. Mindfulness 7, 445–452 (2016).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Health behavior
  • Physical activity
  • Motivation
  • Mindfulness
  • Students