Sportopedia Glossary

Exercise Behavior Change

Exercise Behavior Change

Enjoyment is a critical component of exercise behavior change. Enjoyment can be defined as taking pleasure in something or doing something one likes. Those considering exercise behavior change may consider moving through stages of change model, such as the Transtheoretical model (Prochaska, Redding, & Evers, 2002) from precontemplation/contemplation to preparation and then action/maintenance. Exercise behavior change may also shift from one or more forms of exercise to other(s). Enjoyment of an activity may be the critical factor in determining whether the individual adheres to the activity. Activity enjoyment should be considered in working with an individual on exercise behavior change. Exercise adherence is our primary goal, to have individuals adhere to a regular exercise/ physical activity program for their lives. Ideally, they would enjoy their exercise program.

Enjoyment can be seen at work in several areas. Vallerand (2008) has conducted work on a Dualistic Model of Passion, encompassing harmonious and obsessive passion. Harmonious passion “results from an autonomous internalization of the activity into the person’s identity. An autonomous internalization occurs when individuals have feely accepted the activity as important for them without any contingencies attached to it” (Vallerand, 2008, p. 2). Additionally, “With this type of passion, the activity occupies a significant, but not overpowering, space in the person’s identity and is in harmony with other aspects of the person’s life” (p. 2). Obsessive passion controls the individual and is not seen as desirable. Harmonious passion encompasses an activity that an individual enjoys and will continue.

Fun has been explored by Visek and colleagues (2015). Their focus was on children and adolescents’ sport participation. They noted that children cite ‘fun’ as the most important reason for participating in organized sport. A lack of fun is the primary reason for dropping out of a youth sport experience. Visek and colleagues have developed a concept mapping
approach called FUN MAPS, and found that these “provide pictorial evidence-based blueprints for the fun integration theory (FIT), which . . . can be used to maximize fun . . . to promote and sustain an active and healthy lifestyle through sport” (p. 424). As children and adolescents become adults, this experience of having fun translates into enjoyment with exercise and physical activity (which may involve sport but doesn’t have to do so) and may lead to exercise adherence.

Enjoyment can come from several avenues. There may be the enjoyment of engaging in exercise in social settings and with friends. One may enjoy being ‘in shape’ and able to perform in one’s chosen exercise/ sport at a given level. One may enjoy how one looks— attractiveness—to others and/or oneself. Ideally, one would enjoy the feelings of exercising and these intrinsic feelings are sufficient to reinforce the behavior for the long-term.

These elements will be critical for different individuals. Considering Self-Determination Theory (Ryan & Deci, 2017), one can see that autonomous motivation is most desirable with the highest stage of intrinsic motivation encompassing participation because one enjoys the activity. This enjoyable participation is most likely to result in exercise adherence and reflects the ultimate in exercise behavior change: lifelong participation in exercise and physical activity.


Prochaska, J. O., Redding, C. A., & Evers, K. (2002). The transtheoretical model and stages of change. In K. Glanz, B. K. Rimer, & F. M. Lewis (Eds.), Health behavior and health education: Theory, research, and practice (3rd ed, pp. 99 120). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2017). Self-determination theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness. New York: Guilford Press.

Vallerand, R. J. (2008). On the psychology of passion: In search of what makes people’s lives worth living. Canadian Psychology, 49, 1 13.

Visek, A. J., Achrati, S. M., Mannix, H. M., McDonnell, K.,
Harris, B. S., & DiPietro, L. (2015). The Fun Integrationr Theory: Toward sustaining children and adolescents’ sport participation. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 12, 424 433.

***Contributed by Michael L. Sachs for Hackfort, D., Schinke, R. J., & Strauss, B. (Eds.). (2019). Dictionary of sport psychology: sport, exercise, and performing arts. Academic Press.