Exercise and well-being in active women: Relationships with perceived identity-behaviour consistency, affect, and passion


Background: Although exercise has been linked to women's psychological well-being, we do not fully understand the mechanisms underlying this relationship. Concepts from Identity Theory and the Dualistic Model of Passion show promise in this area but have seldom been examined together. Purpose: To examine the relationships between perceptions of exercise identity behavior consistency (IBC), affective reactions to exercise, passion types and general well-being. Methods: The participants were 63 active, middle-aged women. Measures consisted of self-reported questionnaires administered during two evaluation sessions in the context of a larger study. Analyses consisted of correlations, step-wise linear regression and mediation analyses. Results: Controlling for exercise levels, perceptions of the extent of IBC were significantly correlated with life satisfaction and vitality (ps < .05). The relationship between extent of IBC and vitality was mediated by negative affective reactions to exercise (indirect effect 95% CI [0.06, 0.40]). In addition, there were significant interaction effects between passion types (i.e., obsessive, harmonious) and the extent of IBC in predicting vitality (ps < .05). Among women with higher obsessive passion for exercise, lower perceived consistency between identity and behaviour was associated with lower vitality. Conclusions: The results provide preliminary support in the exercise domain that behavioral verification of an endorsed identity can help promote broader emotional health in women. Moreover, rigid identification with the exerciser role can be tied to needing to exercise to confirm one's identity in order to reap psychological benefits. Interventions should be geared towards helping women assimilate exercise into their view of themselves in a flexible and compassionate way.