Just going to do it: An experimental examination of the effects of sports-related television content on exercise-related cognitions


Television viewing is often portrayed as one of the key contributors to the rates of physical inactivity of young people; however, the relationship is a complex one. For instance, television-based mass-media campaigns have been successful in promoting physical activity by increasing exercise-related attitudes and knowledge. PURPOSE: The purpose of the current study was to examine the effects existing sports-related television content may have on the exercise-related cognitions of university students. METHODS: Undergraduate students (N=127, Mage=19yrs) completed pre-and post- measures before and after watching either a health-based control video or an experimental video that including clips of advertisements featuring high profile athletes engaging in intense training. Questionnaires assessed television viewing habits, physical activity, and exercise-related cognitions. RESULTS: Participants were highly active (M= 225 min/wk) yet reported watching an average of 3hrs of TV per day, most of which was viewed over the internet (80%). Results of a MANOVA revealed a significant group by time interaction (p=.024), in which participants who viewed the sports video condition reported a modest increase in intentions to engage in exercise whereas there was no change in intentions reported by the control group (p=.006). A separate MANOVA showed significant time effects (p=.005) in that scores for all types of motivation to exercise (extrinsic – integrated) were higher following video exposure (ps<.05). CONCLUSION: Findings suggest that exposure to brief sports-related television content can increase exercise intentions among young adults. This further highlights the complex relationship between the viewing of television content and exercise-related variables.

Acknowledgments: This research was supported by the Acadia University Webster Undergraduate Research Award