Researchers using an achievement goal theory and caring climate framework have highlighted the connection between fitness center members’ climate perceptions and their exercise motivation. However, much of what is known comes from current members, with little known about former and non-members’ perceptions. The purpose of this study was to compare current, former, and nonmembers’ perceptions of the motivational climate of a university campus fitness facility. Faculty and staff (N = 657) at a large American university completed a one-time mixed-methods survey about their perceptions of the motivational climate (i.e. caring climate; preference for caring, task-, ego-involving climate), staff behaviors (i.e. caring, task involving), and usage of their campus fitness facility. Despite usage, quantitative analyses indicated that all participants reported valuing a caring, task-involving climate over a non-caring, ego-involving climate when choosing a fitness center. When asked about the particular fitness center for this study, current members were more likely than former and never users to perceive a caring climate where staff engaged in task-involving behaviors. Content analysis of the qualitative comments revealed that three main themes emerged with regard to perceptions and fell into positive, negative, and neutral categories. Overall, current users were more likely to perceive caring behaviors among the staff such as taking measures to welcome members and supporting their individualized goals. Former and never users were more likely to perceive staff as unhelpful, unwelcoming, and unfriendly. In an effort to remove barriers to physical activity, fitness professionals should consider how their behaviors, interactions, and promotional materials impact individuals’ decision of whether to exercise at their fitness facility. The findings include a discussion for fitness staff to consider when creating advertisement and outreach efforts as well as how to foster the most effective climate to attract and retain exercisers.
- Achievement motivation