Male prisoners' motivation to engage in exercise as a means of promoting physical and mental wellbeing

Hannah Baumer

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Adopting Self-Determination Theory (SDT; Ryan & Deci, 1985) as a theoretical framework, the present thesis sought to develop a comprehensive understanding of male prisoners' motivation to engage in exercise, and subsequent well-being outcomes of exercise behaviours. Study I tested the suitability of SDT as an appropriate framework for understanding male prisoners’ exercise motivations through a quantitative approach. This included the development of a scale for identifying male prisoners’ individual motives for exercise, which was employed alongside several existing measures to provide support for two key premises of SDT; the presence of a self-determination continuum, and the principle of basic psychological need satisfaction. Study II employed prisoner interviews to explore structural and cultural factors related to exercise motivation. Thematic analysis shaped the identification of adaptive and maladaptive masculine ideals that are created in response to social influences, shaping prisoners’ perceptions of structural barriers to exercise and their identification with exercise as a means of managing the inherent tension that exists in prison. The final study adopted a mixed methods approach to evaluate a sports-based intervention (SBI) in prison, known as Cell Workout (CW). The evaluation identified several means through which CW promoted prisoners’ individual motivation and supported adaptive masculinities. Drawing on the positive outcomes of CW, the evaluation provides a detailed understanding of how SBIs in prison can maximise prisoners’ motivation to engage in exercise for the good of their physical and psychological well-being, leading to engagement in further healthy behaviours. The thesis concludes by considering the theoretical and practical implications of adopting SDT as a framework to shape an understanding of male prisoners’ exercise motivations, and the importance of recognising the role of prison management in changing the overall culture of the prison to be supportive of positive masculinities and maximise well- being through exercise.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Meek, Rosie, Supervisor
  • Glorney, Emily, Supervisor
Award date1 Dec 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - 2018


  • Prison research
  • Prison health
  • Sport and exercise
  • Motivation (psychology)
  • Masculinity
  • Physical activity
  • Self determination theory
  • Scale development
  • Sport based intervention
  • Psychological well-being

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