Relationships between mental toughness, barriers to exercise, and exercise behaviour in undergraduate students

Elizabeth Stamp *, Lee Crust *, Christian Swann ** and John Perry ***

(*) School of Sport and Exercise Science, The University of Lincoln, Brayford Pool, Lincoln UK
(**) University of Wollongong, Northfields Avenue, Wollongong, Australia
(***) Department of Sport Health and Exercise Science, University of Hull, UK

The present study explored relationships between mental toughness (MT), barriers to exercise, and self-reported exercise behaviour in university students. Perceived barriers to exercise are important since previous work has identified barriers as strong predictors of exercise behaviour. MT was hypothesised to predict exercise barriers and self-reported exercise behaviour. Participants were 173 undergraduate students (45 men, 128 women) from 10 United Kingdom universities. Questionnaires were used to assess MT, exercise levels, and exercise barriers. Path analysis identified that MT predicted barriers to exercise, with higher MT associated with weaker perceived barriers. Regular exercisers were found to have significantly higher MT than non-regular exercisers, with commitment identified as a key difference. These findings support the proposed hypotheses and provide further evidence of the importance of MT in exercise / physical activity contexts. Future research that adopts longitudinal designs and tests targeted interventions to reduce perceptions of barriers and enhance exercise participation are encouraged.

Keywords: Exercise, Exercise barriers, Higher education, Individual differences, Physical activity