Group contexts such as fitness classes are popular forms of physical activity, and studying them can uncover new ways to promote exercise adherence. Focusing on the potential for group fitness experiences to vary from class to class, we examined how exercisers' dynamic perceptions of groupness relate to recalled perceptions of exercise enjoyment, affective valence, and exertion. These outcome variables are in focus because they are theoretically construed to be determinants of physical activity. Using an intensive sampling methodology across a 2-week period, 97 adult exercisers (Mage = 42.35 years) completed surveys following each fitness class attended (695 unique responses). Using multilevel confirmatory factor analysis, we confirmed a theorized two-factor structure of groupness at both the within- and between-person levels. Multilevel modeling revealed that class-to-class fluctuations in exercisers' perceptions of groupness explained a considerable portion of variance in recalled perceptions of exertion, enjoyment, and affective valence. Specifically, during classes in which exercisers' perceptions of groupness were relatively higher, exercisers reported more recalled enjoyment, affective valence, and exertion. Focusing on how variability in groupness perceptions may influence exercise adherence, these findings demonstrate the value in fitness classes feeling like authentic groups. In studying the dynamic aspects of group evaluations, the current study makes novel advancements to group theories applied to exercise settings. Perhaps most notably, individuals' variations in their cognitive evaluations of fitness groups were closely linked to their affective responses to exercise.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
- Applied Psychology