Date of Award





Doctor of Education

Degree Type



Counseling, Foundations & Leadership

First Advisor

Robert Waller

Second Advisor

Tom Hackett

Third Advisor

Michael Richardson


Research has demonstrated a positive link with motivation, physical exercise, and academic success. A current trend within higher education has been to increase student retention as well as deemphasize physical education. Students, who possess a higher degree of self-determined behavior, sustain greater overall success. Administrators have intensified efforts focusing on student retention; however, little research exists connecting physical exercise with self-determination and how these elements could provide solutions to address this problem. Motivation is an element, which drives people to accomplish a task and has the propensity to change when engaged in physical exercise. The motivational reasons why people participate in physical exercise has been a topic of research for several years; however, research examining the impact physical exercise may or may not have on altering motivation, particularly self-determination, is scarce. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of physical exercise on augmenting self-determination levels of college-aged students. The researcher conducted a comparative quantitative study. Participants (N = 13) completed the Behavioral Regulation in Exercise Questionnaire (BREQ) in a pre and post method. The data were analyzed using a paired-samples t-test, and 84% demonstrated a positive shift along the motivation continuum in the direction towards self-determined behavior when post results were compared to pre results. Results from this study suggests that higher education leaders should devote more research into the potential effects physical education could have on self-determination levels of college students as an aim to increase student retention as well as reinforce the importance of physical education.