Repeated exercise class attendance: The role of class members' similarity and social identification

Mark Stevens*, Sophie White, Alysia M. Robertson, Tegan Cruwys

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Understanding the malleable factors that underpin people's ongoing commitment to specific forms of exercise is crucial to facilitate more effective efforts to improve participation rates. To this end, we examined the role of (a) perceiving the members of one's exercise class to be similar to each other on various dimensions, and (b) possessing a strong social identity as an exercise class member in shaping one's future participation in that class. During a 3-week intensive sampling period, 779 unique responses were obtained from 278 attendees (who were invited to complete a questionnaire on each occasion they attended an exercise class). On each questionnaire, participants indicated their perceptions of class members’ similarity and their own social identification in relation to the exercise class they had just participated in. Participation was conceptualised as attendance at the same class (i.e., same time and type) the following week and was measured objectively using the fitness facility's electronic class attendance records. Linear multilevel models showed that participants identified more strongly as members of exercise classes in which they perceived that their fellow attendees were similar to each other: both in general, and in terms of age, physical fitness, and their attitude towards the class. Participants also tended to be more likely to attend a given exercise class the following week to the extent that they reported a strong sense of social identification as a member of that class. These relationships were replicated in a multilevel mediation model, which revealed a significant indirect effect of similarity on class attendance through social identification. Results point to the role that social identification can play in promoting repeated exercise participation and indicate that one way to facilitate exercisers’ greater social identification might be to purposefully create exercise classes and groups comprised of relatively homogenous individuals.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number102212
    JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
    Volume61
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

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