Self-compassion and exercise: Men and women's reactions to a recalled exercise failure


Exercise improves health and wellbeing, yet people experience setbacks when trying to adhere to exercise. Self-compassion (i.e., treating oneself kindly when facing challenges) can help people cope with exercise setbacks. Most exercise and self-compassion research has been conducted with women but self-compassion should help with exercise failures regardless of gender. The purpose of this study was to establish whether gender moderates the association between self-compassion and responses to an exercise setback. Using an online survey, undergraduate exercisers (N = 117, Mage = 20.97) recalled an exercise setback and how they responded regarding motivation, goal re-engagement, rumination, and affect. Using PROCESS, moderation analysis revealed gender (binary) did not moderate the relationships between self-compassion and responses to the exercise setback. Some moderated effects were found when gender was treated as a continuous variable; self-compassion had a stronger negative relationship with two forms of motivation (amotivation: b = -0.59, 95% CI [-0.98, -0.20], t = -3.02, p = .003; and identified regulation: b = 0.40, 95% CI [0.06, 0.74], t = 2.33, p = .021) at high levels of masculinity, while a stronger negative relationship between self-compassion and state rumination was established at high levels of femininity, b = -0.58, 95% CI [-0.92, -0.25], t = -3.50, p < .001. Findings for most outcomes suggest that self-compassion is associated with adaptive responses to setbacks regardless of gender. Researchers should study effects of self-compassion in exercise contexts across genders and the gender continuum, and continue exploring whether gender influences self-compassion's effects in exercise contexts. Key words: self-compassion, physical activity, exercise failure, gender