The use of goal contents messages via mobile app for improving females' motivation, behavior and performance in running

Chi Ngan CHOW

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


Background/Objective: Physical activity is essential for health and well-being. Most people nowadays lack physical activity, especially female undergraduates aged 18 and 24. Existing studies have shown a significant association between Self-Determination Theory (SDT), Goal Contents, mobile app and exercise motivation. Running is the most common physical activity that is low cost, flexible and easy-to-get. It would be worth knowing the effect of goal contents (intrinsic or extrinsic) delivered through a mobile app on novice female undergraduate runners’ motivation, behavior, and performance in running. In this study, running was defined as recreational, with the intensity level of physical activity (40% to 80% heart rate reserve) and at least 20 minutes of continuous easy running. The study looked into the running motivation based on Self-Determination Theory, running behavior was demonstrated by looking at the running frequency and distance per week, and running performance was reflected by 1609m run (minutes).

Methods: This study lasted for 8 weeks with two times 45 minutes’ sessions per week. Seventy-seven participants were randomly allocated to three experimental conditions: intrinsic goal content group (N=28), extrinsic goal content group (N=29), and a control group (N=20). Daily messages were sent to the intrinsic goal content group and the extrinsic goal content group by a running mobile app (RunKeeper). A mixed-method was adopted in this study. The quantitative data consisted of three parts. Firstly, questionnaires were conducted before and after the interventions to collect data regarding participants’ motivation in running. Secondly, behaviors in running (frequency and distance per week) were recorded via an online platform self-reportedly during the first week, 4th week and final week. Thirdly, data for performance was reflected in a pre-and post 1609m running test. For qualitative data, a total of twelve female undergraduates formed three focus groups for a semi-structured interview in the last week of the program; each focus group had 4 students.

Results: A two-way mixed repeated measures analysis of variance and LSD pairwise comparisons showed that the interaction effect between time and group was significant on autonomy (p<.001), relatedness (p<.001), amotivation (p<.05), running performance (p<.001), running frequency per week (p<.001) and running distance per week (p<.001), suggesting that intrinsic message was most effective in increasing participants’ motivation, behavior, and performance in running. Focus group interviews also revealed that the 8-week training could improve students’ motivation in running and the three basic psychological needs based on the Self-Determination Theory.

Conclusion: The study showed intrinsic messages sent via a mobile app was the most effective in enhancing female undergraduates’ running motivation, behavior and performance (1609m test). However, a long-term follow-up should to be considered in the future, without the use of a classroom setting nor a teacher’s involvement, to examine whether the participants’ running behavior will still improve and whether such improvements can be sustained. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Education
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
  • CHOW, Hung Kay, Daniel 周鴻奇, Supervisor
  • TSE, Choi Yeung, Andy 謝采揚, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Self-determination theory
  • Goal contents
  • Mobile app
  • Physical activity
  • Running
  • Exercise motivation
  • Exercise performance
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ed.D.)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2021.


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