Physiotherapy UK 2018: Use self-determination theory to promote physical activity

Self-determination theory could help physiotherapists persuade patients of the benefits of exercise and a healthy lifestyle, professor Joan Duda told Physio UK.

Professor Joan Duda, second on right, on a panel at Physiotherapy UK 2018. Photo. Simon Hadley

She explained it was a theory of motivation that highlights how professionals can support people to develop inner resources that would equip them to self-regulate their behaviour.

‘We need to think about what we can do in all our interactions with patients to help them feel competent, and to have a sense of autonomy, personal volition and choice,’ said Professor Duda, who is professor of sport and exercise psychology at the University of Birmingham.

‘Also, we need to maximise ‘relatedness’ – to let them feel connected, cared for, listened to and respected.’

10-week group exercise study

Together with colleagues, Professor Duda implemented self-determination theory in a series of exercise classes. Over 10 weeks, her team compared the approach to a standard approach in a separate set of exercise classes.

‘Those in the needs-supported environment felt more competent, more connected and related; and it had a significant effect on their identified motivation,’ said Professor Duda.

‘There was also a significant positive effect on wellbeing, in contrast to the control exercise classes, where there was actually a decrease in positive effect by the time the classes were concluding.’

Professor Duda, who is also president of the European College of Sports Science, has been studying motivation for over 30 years and has published over 300 scientific papers on the subject.

She told delegates: ‘Changing behaviour and beliefs is a very important area for physiotherapists, as you face a number of challenges with the people who come to your sessions.

‘Do they optimally engage with what you’re talking about? Do they do their exercises with the vigour, enthusiasm and appropriateness you would like? And do they do their prescribed exercises at home?’



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