Social support can encourage people participate in health-enhancing exercise. However, the effects of different types of social support (e.g., emotional or instrumental) are still unclear.
In a study, researchers find that actively looking for a new exercise partner and exercising together can make people exercise more. The finding is published in British Journal of Health Psychology.
Researchers from University of Zurich in Switzerland conducted the study. They tested the hypothesis that social support can help build self-regulation and action planning and thus improve exercise participation.
Researchers conducted an 8-week online study. A total of 223 participants were assigned to an intervention or a control group.
The intervention comprised finding and then exercising regularly with a new exercise companion. Researchers compared the effects of intervention and control group by the end of the study.
The result showed that received emotional social support could predict self-efficacy, self-monitoring, and action planning in the intervention group.
Moreover, received emotional social support was indirectly connected with exercise. The indirect effect from received emotional social support via self-efficacy mainly contributed to the total beneficial effect.
No direct or indirect effect of received instrumental social support on exercise emerged.
In the control group, neither emotional nor instrumental social support was associated with any of the self-regulation constructs nor with exercise.
Based on the results, researchers suggest that looking for a new exercise partner and exercising together can be beneficial for sport participation.
Additionally, emotional support can promote exercise by enabling better self-regulation, in particular self-efficacy.
Citation: Rackow P, et al. (2015). Received social support and exercising: An intervention study to test the enabling hypothesis. British Journal of Health Psychology, 20: 763-776. DOI: 10.1111/bjhp.12139.
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