Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 February 2017
This study aimed to determine the usefulness of integrating basic psychological needs theory (BPNT) and relational frames theory (RFT) in order to explain the effects of social physique anxiety (SPA) – in the context of exercise – on exercisers’ mental health. A total of 296 recreational cyclists and triathletes (100% males) aged 18 to 60 years old (Mage = 35.65, SD = 9.49) completed a multi-section questionnaire assessing the target variables. Two models of structural equations with multiple mediators were tested using 5000 bootstrap samples. While the BPNT-based model explained 20% of variance in satisfaction with life (SWL) and 25% of variance in mental health (MH), the model that also incorporated RFT explained 43% of variance in both of those variables. Results showed that SPA negatively impacted exercisers’ mental health via two different mechanisms: a) through a decrease in perceived satisfaction of basic psychological needs (β = –.05, p = .045 for SWL; β = –.07, p = .002 for MH); b) through an increase in psychological inflexibility, generated directly by SPA (β = –.24, p < .001 for SWL; β = –.20, p < .001 for MH) and also mediated by basic psychological need thwarting (β = –.09, p < .001 for SWL; β = –.08, p = .002 for MH). Results supported integrating the two theories, elucidating the processes by which a controlling social factor like SPA can affect the potential benefits of exercise.