Exercise motivation for non-exercisers - challenges and considerations when using the behavioural regulation in exercise questionnaire (breq)


The Behavioural Regulation in Exercise Questionnaire (BREQ) is the most widely used instrument to measure exercise motivation under the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) framework. The BREQ has been used in many theoretical, applied, and intervention-based studies to measure individuals' intrinsic, extrinsic, and amotivated reasons for engaging in exercise. One challenge for researchers and practitioners aiming to measure or track changes in exercise motivation patterns, however, is that the BREQ is not designed for individuals who do not exercise. It is often assumed that these non-exercisers are amotivated, where they do not know why they engage in physical activity, and will respond to the BREQ items accordingly. In practice, however, SDT stipulates that you must still engage in a behaviour in order to experience amotivation towards it. As a result, the BREQ items are nonsensical for non-exercisers, forcing them to respond haphazardly. This comprises the validity of the data and researchers miss an important opportunity to meaningfully assess the construct. The goal of the present study is to explore methodological solutions to this limitation of the BREQ by exploring different item stems for non-exercisers. Mean score comparisons of exercisers (n = 601) and non-exercisers (n = 300) provided preliminary evidence supporting that the modified item stems help non-exercisers meaningfully respond to the BREQ items (ts > 6.78, p < .001). The results are presented in terms of practical considerations and solutions for researchers and a framework of non-engagement aligning with SDT is presented for discussion.