Introduction and Objectives Exercise motivation and maintenance is a key problem in overweight children and adolescents. Based on self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2012), the study investigated how the sport climate (i.e., an autonomy-supportive vs. controlling coaching style) is associated with sport motivation, basic needs and physical activity (PA) in an exercise program for overweight children and adolescents (Fidelio).
Method Ninety-two overweight and obese (BMI SDS M = 2.03, SD = .53) children and adolescents (50 girls, mean age 10.89 years, SD = 1.39) participated in the study. In a quasi-experimental design, we examined changes in sport climate, basic psychological need satisfaction through sports and exercise, sport motivation and PA during the program (accelerometer, Actigraph). Furthermore, attendance, drop-out, weight (BMI SDS and body fat SDS via body fat analyzer scale, Tanita) and social-status were measured.
Results Participants of the Fidelio program overall show high rates of physical activity within the exercise program compared to Physical Education (PE) (Aelterman et al., 2012) (Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA) t(609) = 28.99, p< .001, Cohens´d = 1.87; Fidelio MMVPA=21 (46%) minutes, SD = 6; MSTEPS = 1872-2050). Results show significant correlations between sport climate and the basic need for competence (r = .328; p < .01) and relatedness, (r = .264; p < .05). However, sport climate is not associated with external regulated extrinsic motivation and amotivation but internalized forms of motivation (e.g. intrinsic motivation to experience stimulation, r = .402; p < .01). Significant correlations were also found between sport climate and physical activity (r = .357; p < .05).
Discussion Beyond effects of weight reduction through a sport program, our data suggest that the experienced degree of autonomy support from coaches has a positive effect on children’s motivation, basic needs and PA. Further research should address effects of autonomy supportive coaching styles for developing a healthy lifestyle in children and adolescents.