In the study involving more than 200 participants with 84 percent female the researchers identified 12 psychosocial variables that motivates people to start exercising.
These were physical activity levels, self-efficacy, decisional balance or perceived beliefs about the pros and cons of physical activity outcome expectations, physical activity enjoyment, cognitive and behavioural processes of change, perceived satisfaction with physical activity, social support for physical activity from family and friends, and environmental access to convenient facilities, neighbourhood and home exercise equipment.
"These findings were a little surprising since they were somewhat contradictory of other theoretical models of physical activity behaviours and interventions," said David Williams, PhD, of The Miriam Hospital's Centres for Behavioural and Preventive Medicine.
"A better understanding of these variables will help us design more effective interventions that encourage individuals to initiate, and stick with, a physical activity program," he added.
Further analyses revealed that access to home exercise equipment was more predictive of physical activity adoption, whereas self-efficacy and perceived satisfaction were more important in predicting exercise maintenance.
The study is published online by the Annals of Behavioural Medicine.