WHY ARE SOME PEOPLE LESS ACTIVE THAN OTHERS?

PEDAGOGICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND SEDENTARY BEHAVIOURS

Summary:
A 3-wave prospective design was employed to investigate factors that infl uence young
people’s motivations to take part in physical activity, or not. Participants were from four
countries (Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, United Kingdom) and were aged between 11-18
years (n=1000). Three instruments were employed in the context of three models and the aim
was to identify if there was a link between autonomy support from three social agents (school;
family; friends). Autonomy support and relatedness were proven to be most infl uential in
supporting motivation to maintain physical activity or change people’s inactive behaviours.
Family support and enjoyment of PE were critical factors. The authors suggest that the
impact of the three social institutions (schools, families, peers) should be coordinated through
targeted education and training, employing a number of co-ordinated interventions at local
and national government level.
Keywords: physical activity, sedentary behaviour, motivation, autonomy support

Introduction
Promotion of physical activity as well as avoidance of sedentary behaviours are important
contributors to the prevention of non-communicable diseases. This was cited by Juvenal
(Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis; after Christ 47-127) in Satiras: “Orandum est, ut sit mens sana
in corpore sano”. It stands for “Pray for the reason that healthy soul should be in healthy body”
(Juvenal, 1992). Two thousand years later we risk not only our soul’s health, but also that
of our body due to the harm that civilisation wreaks upon itself. Thus Juvenal’s proverb
could perhaps be adapted: Orandum et faciendum est, ut sit corpus sanum – “We must pray and
act to achieve a healthy body for us” (poór, 2019: 1530-1538).
As a nation and a people, Hungary wants to rise and meet European standards in many
areas. A healthy workforce can produce effi ciently, leading to economical growth. Thus,
the pipedream of a wealthier state can be obtained. Therefore, amongst a lot of needs,
improvements are required in the health of the nation.
According to bírónÉ nagY (2011) “Sport is a useful tool that is suitable to compensate
sedentary lifestyle in ‘modern societies’”. The World Health Organization (WHO, 2010)
recommends sixty minutes daily physical activity for young people aged between 5-17
years of age. Beyond this sixty minutes of daily physical activity, further additional
positive health infl uences can accrue. It is accepted that mainly aerobic exercises are a
worthwhile pursuit amongst the general population. However, fi tness/stamina enhancing
activities are especially benefi cial for young people if they are conducted at least three
current research in educational sciences 2019
74
times per week. Notwithstanding the benefi ts for young people, either one hundred and
fi fty minutes moderate or alternatively seventy-fi ve minutes per week vigorous exercise is
recommended for over sixty-fi ve year old people for their health benefi t.
There are a number of psychological theories and models through which measures
have been developed and employed to measure and/or predict people’s motivations for
exercise. They have included:
1 The Ecological Model (EM; bauMan et al., 2012: 258-271)
2 Aetiological Approach (AA; hagger – chatZisarantis, 2016: 360-407)
3 Trans-Contextual Model (TCM; hagger et al., 2009: 689-711) that consists of the
a) Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB; aJZen, 1985: 11-39)
b) Self-Determination Theory (SDT; deci – rYan, 1985) and the
c) Hierarchical Model of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation (HMIEM; vallerand,
1997: 271-360).
The Ecological Model (EM; bauMan et al., 2012: 258-271) describes not only psychological
and biological, but interpersonal determinants, such as social support (from family, friends
and work or school), and cultural norms and practices. In summary, EM explains health
behaviour causation, with the social and physical environment.
The Aetiological Approach (AA; hagger – chatZisarantis, 2016: 360-407) not only
describes the correlational relationships (in which factors are associated with activities),
but uncovers the determinants (those with causal explanation) of intentions, decision
making and physical activity behaviour.
The Trans-Contextual Model (TCM) is an integrated model of motivation incorporating
special aspects of the Self-Determination Theory (SDT; deci – rYan, 1985, 1991: 237-288), the
Hierarchical Model of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation (HMIEM; vallerand, 1997: 271-360,
2001: 263-320) and the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB; aJZen, 1985: 11-39, 1991). The TransContextual Model is a theoretical model which explains the processes of how autonomous
motivation transfers across contexts. For example, adolescents’ autonomous motivation in
leisure time can be determined by autonomous motivation in Physical Education (PE).
The Self-Determination Theory (SDT) consists of three basic needs that require to be
satisfi ed: the need for autonomy (the belief that one is the origin and regulator of his or her
own action), the need for competence (the belief that one can effi caciously interact with the
environment), and the need for relatedness (the seeking and development of secure and
connected relationships with others in one’s social context) (deci – rYan, 1985).
Vallerand’s Hierarchical Model of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation (HMIEM)
incorporates the fundamental tenets of deci – rYan’s (1985, 1991) Self-Determination
Theory and contends that motivation operates at three levels. First the global level (or
personality), second the contextual level (or life domain) and fi nally, the situational (or
state) level (vallerand, 1997: 271-360, 2001: 263-320).
TPB comprises of three constructs. They are termed as attitude, subjective norm and
perceived behavioural control (PBC). Attitude refl ects an individual’s personal orientation
toward engaging in a behaviour. Subjective norms refl ect social pressure from signifi cant
others regarding a behaviour. PBC refl ects the impact of perceived abilities and barriers
with respect to engaging in a behaviour (hagger et al., 2005: 376-390).
Our study replicated hagger et al.’s (2009: 689-711) study (Teacher, peer and parent
autonomy support in physical education and leisure-time physical activity: A transcontextual model of motivation in four nations).
It has been well documented that health status is signifi cantly infl uenced by different
behaviours, including such factors as the duration and intensity of physical activity. Equally
important is the duration of sitting activities (“sedentary” behaviour), the combination of
75
istván soós et al.: WhY are soMe people less active than others?
which, with unhealthy eating or, for example, snacking, can have serious consequences.
This often leads to the development of excess body weight or its more severe form, obesity.
To understand and explain why some people are less active than others, experts
investigated the correlates and determinants of people’s physical activity and sedentary
behaviours from a very young age across the life cycle. Correlates are the factors associated
with the activity and determinants explain the causal relationship between factors and the
activity or behaviour (bauMan et al., 2012: 258-271).
Our study aimed to investigate the link between
1) perceived autonomy support from three social agents (school, family and friends) and
2) autonomous motivation in an educational context (physical education) as well as
leisure-time physical activity
3) It also examined how autonomous motivation in leisure-time can be translated
into leisure-time physical activity intention and behaviour as based on the SelfDetermination Theory, the Theory of Planned Behaviour and the Trans-Contextual
Model.
4) Similarly to previous studies (hagger et al., 2009: 689-711), results from collectivist
countries (Hungary, Slovakia and Romania) are compared with a country (United
Kingdom) where historically individualist cultural norms are dominant (MarKus –
KitaYaMa, 1991: 224-253).
It was hypothesised that:
1) Students will perceive that they received the highest autonomy support from
family/parents as opposed to schools and friends
2) Autonomous motivation in physical education infl uences autonomous motivation
in leisure time
3) There would be a clear link of how perceived autonomous motivation in leisuretime determines physical activity intention of students and that leads to their actual
behaviour
4) Differences can be found in students’ autonomous motivation as well as in
infl uencing factors by nationality.

Methods
Pedagogical and psychological aspects of the barriers to physical activity and the incentives
for sedentary behaviours were investigated. These investigations considered the path
between variables in relationship with theories, models and approaches. Also, in the last
section, we looked at differences by country in various natural and social environments.
Transition between contexts, for example, the infl uence of school physical education on the
behaviour of people in free living (free time or leisure time) was also taken into consideration.
A three-wave prospective design was employed, and data were collected from 11-18
year old students (n=1000, mean age=15.0, male 42%, female 58%) in the United Kingdom
and three East-European countries: Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.
The Helsinki Declaration’s ethical guidelines were followed.
Data collection instruments comprised PASSES (Perceived Autonomy Support in
Exercise Setting), BREQ-2 (Behaviour Regulation in Exercise Questionnaire version 2) and
Godin’s Leisure-Time PA Scale and used in the context of the following three theories/
model, Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB), Self-Determination Theory (SDT) and TransContextual Model (TCM).
Data were analysed using IBM SPSS v. 25 statistical software.

Results

Our fi rst hypothesis was accepted, as parents/family provided the highest autonomy support for students (r=0.32, p<0.05), compared with friends/peers autonomy support (r=0.14, p<0.05). Furthermore, PE teachers/schools autonomy support demonstrated a negative value (r=-0.32, p<0.05). Similarly, the second hypothesis that considered how autonomous motivation in physical education infl uenced autonomous motivation in leisure-time was accepted with moderate relationship (r=0.21, p<0.05). The third hypothesis was accepted also by demonstrating moderate correlation between autonomous motivation and physical activity intention (r=0.22, p<0.05), but a stronger correlation was identifi ed between autonomous motivation and physical activity behaviour (r=0.38, p<0.05). Autonomous motivation in leisure-time context had the strongest link with attitude (r=0.71, p<0.01), but there was a weak link with subjective norm (r=0.05, p>0.05) and perceived behavioural control (r=0.11, p>0.05). Attitude and perceived behavioural control were found to have weakly infl uenced physical activity intentions (r=0.11, p>0.05; and r=0.10, p>0.05 respectively), while autonomous motivation and subjective norm moderately infl uenced the self-same intentions (r=0.22, p<0.05 and r=0.22, p<0.05 respectively). In consequence, physical activity intention had a very weak link with physical activity behaviour (r=0.03, p>0.05). Physical activity behaviour was infl uenced strongly by leisure-time autonomous motivation and past behaviour (r=0.38, p<0.05 and r=0.38, p<0.05 respectively), but not by perceived behavioural control (r=0.12, p>0.05). With respect to the fourth hypothesis, the by-country comparison, British students perceived the strongest autonomy support from PE teachers (p<.001) compared with students from other countries (Hungary, Romania, Slovakia). Eastern European students perceived the highest level of autonomy support both from parents (p<.001) and friends (p<.001). However, this correlation was reversed in a few cases possibly due to the traditionally controlling education systems of many Eastern European schools, corresponding to hein et al. (2016: 1-16).

Discussion
This study aimed to investigate the link between perceived autonomy support from three
social agents (school, family and friends). According to the Self-Determination Theory, two
components, autonomy support and relatedness were proven being supported the most by
families/parents in this age group (soos et al., 2019: 509-530). Family support for physical
activity (e.g. parents, brothers and sisters), as well as enjoyment in physical education, are
essential aspects to maintain people’s physical activity or in other cases change their inactive
behaviour (conner – norMan, 2017: 115-128). This is also true of perceived ability in sports/
physical activity. According to csánYi (2010: 1-20), the facilitation of physical activity from
families can provide a supportive role regarding young people’s physical activity. Family
circumstances (e.g. social or geographical background), support from parents, access to
sport facilities, and fi nancial resources are all important, as are the role model of parents.
According to the Trans-Contextual Model, autonomous motivation transfers from the
physical education context to the leisure-time context. It is likely that a good experience
of PE, or even enjoyment of physical activity are great driving forces for students to live
physically active lives and possibly spend less time being sedentary (Marshall et al., 2002).
Components of the Theory of Planned Behaviour (attitude, subjective norm and perceived
behavioural control) had relatively weak links with physical activity intention, therefore
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istván soós et al.: WhY are soMe people less active than others?
they did not infl uence physical activity behaviour signifi cantly. Physical activity behaviour
is more determined by leisure-time autonomous motivation as well as past physical activity
behaviour, which accorded with earlier work by hagger – chatZisarantis (2016: 360-407). As
a presumption, confi rmed by using the Aetological Approach and the Hierarchical Model of
Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation, independent perceptions of behavioural control and past
behaviours have been the strongest determinants of the development of physical activityrelated behaviour and its incorporation into everyday habits. Thus, our results affi rmed that
intention alone does not lead to the development and fi xation of physical activity as a form
of behaviour without the development of autonomous motivation in students.
Furthermore, personality factors as well as situational factors (including the social
environment), were two of the most important contributing motivational factors for
people to become physically active and make effort to reduce sedentary behaviours. This
is well explained by the correlates and determinants of physical activity and sedentary
behaviours through personal, interpersonal and environmental factors in the Ecological
Model (bauMan et al., 2012: 258-271; best et al., 2017: 1-14).
Not surprisingly, British students perceived the most autonomous motivation and
perceived autonomy support by physical education teachers (standage et al., 2012: 37-
60), as the British PE curriculum is focussed on health-related physical activity and
students’ enjoyment along with the promotion of a positive class climate. Traditionally,
Eastern European curricula value skill development, and schools believe that this system
creates a better structure for supporting the development of physical fi tness and sport
skill development, rather than a “free choice system”. Thus, students should be more
disciplined, as opposed to the “Western originated” differently focussed competencebased curriculum in which physical sport skill production is of less consequence than
participation, and theoretical components and softer skills of communication and planning
are given substantive weighting.

Conclusions


We conclude that an optimal relationship (autonomous climate) should be developed
between PE teachers and students, and that autonomy support be maintained by family
and friends to encourage students to pursue physical activity behaviour. This might
require interventions within formal PE classes through CPD for teachers, and importantly
a means of getting that message to families and friends. The latter may be facilitated
through eg. “parents evenings” or similar, in which the benefi ts and indeed the necessities
of physically active lifestyles are set out, and the role of parents and families in supporting
these activities are reinforced.
Also, in conclusion, we recommend that practitioners, in addition to engaging in
physical activity at a young age, maintain an optimum group atmosphere, positive class
climate, both pre-school and school, through persuasive communication.
Furthermore, in line with the above ideas, the impact of the three social institutions
(schools, families, peers) should be coordinated through targeted education and training.
This is not an easy but a nice pedagogical task! For example, perhaps government
departments (eg. health, social services) might be encouraged to develop promotional
strategies to reach out to parents and families and extoll them to get their loved ones active,
rather than with the usual “get yourself active” crusades.
The key message to stakeholders is to co-operate with the three social agents (school,
family and peer groups) to develop intervention programmes for educating people in
order to improve physical activity and minimize sedentary behaviours.
current research in educational sciences 2019
78
Suggestions for overcoming physical inactivity:
• Health promotion programmes (see above)
• Education for health-conscious lifestyle, motivation
• Implementing sports for all as “fashionable” mass movements, exercise should be
utilised as a popular “fashion” activity
• Daily physical education, early age motivation
• Improvement of occupational health; providing access to sports facilities
• Ministry of Human Resources (EMMI) National Musculoskeletal Development
Programme, intervention programmes, legislative proposals
• Primary and Secondary Prevention, Motivation – Raising Physical Exercise in
General in order to educate a physically fi t generation
• Financial support from the Government will improve public health situation (poór,
2019: 1530-1538).
• School should provide a quality education for promoting physical activity
• Families and students should deal with daily physical education as a value at school,
especially from the aspect of health promotion (see above)
• Parents should act as a role model in health-related physical activity
To ensure that these opportunities are enacted, it is important that the correlates and
determinants of why and how some young people can be less inactive than others is
communicated and explained fully. Only with this understanding is the movement for
positive change likely to be supported.

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