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SPEX308 Psychology of Physical Activity

Critically examines the influence of social psychological factors on decisions to adopt and maintain physical activity and the relationships between physical activity and psychological well-being.

Paper title Psychology of Physical Activity
Paper code SPEX308
Subject Sport, Physical Education and Exercise
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 1 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,141.35
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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PHSE 205 or PHSE 334 or SPEX 204 or SPEX 205
PHSE 336, PHSE 536
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Science

Suitable for students interested in the psychology of physical activity, health promotion, public health, social psychology and physical education. 


Teaching staff

Course Coordinator: Associate Professor Elaine Hargreaves

Paper Structure

The paper covers five topics:

  • Introduction to the psychology of physical activity and the research
  • The psychological responses to physical activity: depression, anxiety, self-esteem and body image, affect and potential negative outcomes (e.g. exercise dependence)
  • The role of motivation in physical activity behaviour change, drawing from self-determination theory, self-efficacy theory and theory of planned behaviour
  • Skills and techniques for conducting successful physical activity behaviour change consultations
  • Design and evaluation of psychologically based physical activity interventions
Teaching Arrangements

There are five compulsory tutorials held across the semester.


There is no compulsory textbook. A reading list will be provided, which details the book chapter or research articles that complement each lecture. These readings will be available online and through course reserve in the library.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Research, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

On completing the paper students should be able to:

  • Describe the evidence to support (or not) the role physical activity plays in the treatment of depression and anxiety.
  • Explain the relationship between physical activity and the different facets of psychological wellbeing.
  • Critically evaluate current socio-cognitive theories that explain motivation for physical activity.
  • Demonstrate the communication skills required to facilitate individual-level behaviour change.
  • Translate theory-based concepts into practical strategies to influence behaviour in different physical activity contexts.

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Semester 1

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Tuesday 09:00-09:50 9-14, 16, 18-22
Thursday 09:00-09:50 9-14, 16-22


Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend one stream from
A1 Tuesday 10:00-10:50 10, 12-13, 16, 18, 20
A2 Tuesday 11:00-11:50 10, 12-13, 16, 18, 20
A3 Thursday 12:00-12:50 10, 12-13, 16, 18, 20