Year of Publication


Date of Thesis


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Exercise and Sport Sciences


Across the lifespan, marked declines in daily physical activity (PA) have been found to coincide with the transition to adulthood (Zick et al., 2007). However, little is known about how emerging adults think about and engage in PA within the developmental context of their lives. An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (Smith et al., 2009) was conducted to inductively explore the experiential impact of PA within the transition to adulthood. Six highly physically active (MPA = 19 hrs/week; range = 7-27 hrs/week) emerging adults (3 male, 3 female; Mage = 25.5 years, range = 23-28) participated in semi-structured interviews. Analyses revealed three sub-themes: Context of Life and PA; Social Connection, Support, and Energy; and Positive Insights and Sensations. The higher-order theme that linked all six interviews to describe the perceived impact of PA during emerging adulthood was, An Outlet for Continued Goal-Striving and Self-Change. Participants’ ongoing PA participation enabled them to continue striving towards meaningful goals in their activity. Participants also recognized positive impacts of PA that influenced other aspects of life, and integrated their PA experiences within their pursuit of long-term life aspirations. Results indicated that deliberate reflective efforts and self-awareness were important precursors to developing these PA insights. Empirical models of personal growth have included reflective effort as an important precursor to the experience of meaningful self-change (e.g., O’Connor & Wolfe, 1991). Practical applications are offered for practitioners to help facilitate growthful, physically active life transitions for emerging adults.



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