Social support for physical activity among adolescents

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)


The aim of the present thesis was to enhance our understanding of social support for physical activity among adolescents. Earlier findings show inconsistent results with regard to the importance of social support. The present thesis includes three empirical studies examining adolescents (16-18 years) during their years in high-school. Study I was a cross-sectional quantitative study that concluded that social support from several contexts was strongly related to current and intended physical activity. Social support in a sport club context provided the strongest unique contribution to the relation with physical activity and social support from an outside perspective (e.g., suggestions, help in planning and positive discourse about physical activity) had multifaceted effects on physical activity. An important finding was that social support could exist in tandem with experiences of negative social influences (e.g., complaints, critique, teasing). Study II was based on a longitudinal quantitative design and revealed that social support experienced by high school students at 16-17 years of age had a direct suppressing effect and an indirect positive effect on their current and intended physical activity two years later. The results implied that social support to adolescents should be offered over an extended period of time, with increased focus on its significance as a link from an initially external regulation to a more internal regulation of physical activity as students get older. Study III used a prospective qualitative methodological approach and results showed that positive experiences, health, appearance, performance enhancement, social support, mainly companionship support, and accessibility were important facilitators for adolescents´ involvement in physical activity. Periodic activity, negative social influence and lack of time were the most frequently cited reasons for a decrease in physical activity. Periodic activity highlighted the importance of social support including self-regulatory skills for adoption and maintenance of physical activity.

The conclusion drawn from the three studies is to acknowledge the recipients´ appraisals of the support provided in conjunction with an awareness of possible negative social influences. Social support for physical activity per se and theory based social support could be viewed as possible links from external to more internal regulation of physical activity.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Psychology
  • Apitzsch, Erwin, Supervisor
  • Rydén, Olof, Supervisor
Award date2011 Apr 6
ISBN (Print)978-91-7473-095-1
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2011-04-06
Time: 13:00
Place: Humanisthusets hörsal, SoL centrum
External reviewer(s)
Name: Biddle, Stuart
Title: Professor
Affiliation: Loughborough University, UK

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Psychology

Free keywords

  • Adolescent / youth
  • physical activity / exercise
  • intention
  • social influence
  • social support
  • health / well-being
  • health behaviour

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