Research Article| Volume 52, ISSUE 11, P1001-1007, November 2020

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A Motivational Pathway Linking Physical Activity to Body-Related Eating Cues

  • Eliana V. Carraça
    Address for correspondence: Eliana V. Carraça, PhD, Interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Human Performance (CIPER), Faculdade de Motricidade Humana, Universidade de Lisboa, Estrada da Costa, Cruz Quebrada 1495-688, Portugal
    Interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Human Performance (CIPER), Faculdade de Motricidade Humana, Universidade de Lisboa, Cruz Quebrada, Portugal

    Faculdade de Educação Física e Desporto, Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias, Lisbon, Portugal
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  • Bruno Rodrigues
    Research Centre in Physical Activity, Health and Leisure, Faculty of Sports, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal
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  • Diogo S. Teixeira
    Faculdade de Educação Física e Desporto, Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias, Lisbon, Portugal
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Published:September 15, 2020DOI:



      To explore the motivational transfer between physical activity (PA) and body-related eating cues, through self-determined motivations to exercise (SDM Ex) and regulate eating (SDM Eat).




      Participants completed an online inventory on PA and eating behaviors and motivations in 2017–2018.


      A convenience sample of 300 adults (71% women; 34.4 ± 10.7 years; 23.2 ± 3.4 kg/m2), recruited through Facebook and cooperating Portuguese gyms.

      Variables Measured

      Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (independent), SDM Ex and SDM Eat (mediators), and body-related eating cues (dependent) variables assessed through validated self-reported measures.


      Structural equation modeling and serial mediation procedures were used to test the hypothetical model.


      Physical activity was positively associated with SDM Ex, which was, in turn, associated with SDM Eat, which in turn positively predicted reliance on hunger/satiety cues and (more strongly) body–food choice congruence. The path through exercise and eating motivations was the leading mediating path in the PA and body–food choice congruence association.

      Conclusions and Implications

      This study lends support to the motivational transfer hypothesis between SDM Ex and SDM Eat in normal-weight adults, suggesting that more physically active individuals present higher SDM Ex and SDM Eat, and therefore, greater attentiveness to body-related eating cues and necessities. Encouraging PA might also improve individuals’ eating self-regulation, especially if self-determined motivations are targeted in future interventions.

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