A Social Identity Approach to Understanding and Promoting Physical Activity
© The Author(s) 2017. Open Access. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Against the backdrop of a global physical inactivity crisis, attempts to both understand and positively influence physical activity behaviours are characterized by a focus on individual-level factors (e.g. cognitions, attitudes, motivation). We outline a new perspective, drawn from an emerging body of work exploring the applicability of social identity and self-categorization theories to domains of sport and health, from which to understand and address this pervasive problem. This social identity approach suggests that the groups to which people belong can be, and often are, incorporated into their sense of self and, through this, are powerful determinants of physical activity-related behaviour. We start by reviewing the current state of physical activity research and highlighting the potential for the social identity approach to help understand how social factors influence these behaviours. Next, we outline the theoretical underpinnings of the social identity approach and provide three key examples that speak to the analytical and practical value of the social identity approach in physical activity settings. Specifically, we argue that social identity (1) can be harnessed to promote engagement in physical activity, (2) underpins exercise group behaviour, and (3) underpins effective leadership in exercise settings. We conclude by identifying prospects for a range of theory-informed research developments.
This is the final version of the article. Available from Springer Verlag via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 47 (10), pp. 1911–1918
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