Promoting Physical Activity Participation Through Social Identity Leadership: Evidence from Two Empirical Studies

Stevens, M. (Australian National University), Rees, T. (Bournemouth University), Coffee, P. (University of Stirling), Steffens, N. K. (University of Queensland), Haslam, A. (University of Queensland), Polman, R. (Queensland University of Technology)

Although physical activity participation has numerous physiological and psychological benefits, inactivity rates remain high, and a greater understanding of the factors that drive participation is needed. Recent research points to a positive relationship between the strength of individuals’ social identification as a member of a particular physical activity group (e.g., an exercise group or sports team) and their group-relevant participation (e.g., in group training sessions and events). Building on this, we provide evidence from two empirical studies (one cross-sectional, one over time; combined N = 769) that, by engaging in social identity leadership, physical activity leaders may promote group members’ greater group identification and, through this, greater levels of group-relevant participation. Extending growing evidence for the influence of various social factors (e.g. social support, social capital) on individuals’ physical activity behaviours, findings highlight the potentially salient impact of physical activity leaders. Particularly, in line with identity leadership theorising, they point to the benefits of these leaders striving to create, represent, advance, and embed a shared sense of ‘us’ among the groups they lead.

Twitter: @MarkStevens2411

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Health and Social Identity