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UC study: what motivates young and old to keep fit?

Kim Pham

28 June 2017: What drives adult athletes to participate, train and compete in sport? Is it the mental and physical health benefits, or is it superficial reasons, like vanity? That’s the question for a group of University of Canberra researchers.

Bachelor of Psychology (honours) student Annaleise Naylor is investigating the motivators for adult athletes, aged from 21 to 66-years-old, to train in a variety of sports.

“This topic came up in a discussion about people participating in sports. We want to know how and why a 50-year-old completes in the same sports activities as a 25-year-old?” Ms Naylor said.

“We also hope the results might help people who are currently inactive to take up training in sport more regularly. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates 3.2 billion people die each year from physical inactivity-related deaths.”

Closer to home, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found only two in five adults reported getting enough physical activity to meet health guidelines in 2014. That participation level was a five per cent decrease from the physical activity findings of 2011.  

The University of Canberra study is focused on recreational or non-elite athletes and is open to anyone who participates in a sports activity for the competition, fun or health benefits.

“However, if you have competed in a sport at a state level or higher within the last three years, you will not be eligible for the study,” Ms Naylor said.

“Basically if you’re involved in any form of organised sport, enjoy an early morning surf, or sweating it out in the gym, you’re exactly who I’m looking for.”

Ms Naylor is searching for volunteers to fill out one online survey and if they’re interested to complete a semi-structured interview lasting 40 – 60 minutes to deeply understand what influences and motivates individuals.

More than 60 people have completed the survey, but Ms Naylor is hoping to collate 200 responses, including 20 interviews, to get a good cross-section of different age groups.

Assistant Professor in Sports Psychology Richard Keegan, who is supervising the project, said this research will provide insights into non-elite or recreational athletes.

“Understanding the unique and influential factors that may be motivating this group will increase our understanding of how to motivate recreational athletes,” Dr Keegan said.

“If we can identify different motivational profiles in age groups and types of activity then we will be able to develop new ways to reach a broad range of people and to get them moving.”

People interested in taking part in the study can follow this link or contact Ms Naylor on 0478 113 593 or email