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Social Physique Anxiety, Mental Health, and Exercise: Analyzing the Role of Basic Psychological Needs and Psychological Inflexibility

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 February 2017

Manuel Alcaraz-Ibáñez*
Universidad de Almería (Spain)
Álvaro Sicilia
Universidad de Almería (Spain)
Rafael Burgueño
Universidad de Almería (Spain)
*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Manuel Alcaraz-Ibáñez. Universidad de Almería. Departamento de Educación. Ctra. de Sacramento, s/n. La Cañada de San Urbano. 04120. Almería (Spain). E-mail:


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.

Research Article
Copyright © Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos de Madrid 2017 

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