This present research examined the motivational climate of group exercise sessions held in nursing homes. Our findings seem to suggest that the nursing home residents perceived their motivational climate as more task-oriented than ego-oriented. This trend is consistent with reports by other authors who have studied younger populations. Indeed, several studies recommended creating task-involving motivational climates in sport and physical education settings rather than ego-involving climates (30–33). Interestingly, the task-involving climate has been positively related to the intrinsic motivation of individuals (i.e. interest, perception of competence, and effort-importance) (34). In contrast, the negative influence of the ego-involving climate on satisfaction and intrinsic motivation has been frequently noted (35,36).
The detailed analysis of A-PMCEQ showed interesting results. Regarding ego-involving climate items, the majority of subjects (i.e., over 78% for each item) do not experience rivalry, favouritism or concerns about mistakes. Similarly, the caring climate usually established in nursing homes should negatively relate to perceptions of an ego-involving motivational climate (37). On the other hand, regarding task-oriented climate items, a large number of subjects experienced feelings of being valued, of individual improvement and of being encouraged to do their best. However, three item results were of particular interest. First, more than half of the respondents found that the instructor did not remark/reward when they tried hard. Nevertheless, previous studies have shown that positive feedback provided by instructors helped participants to gauge their personal progress and was an additional motivator (38–40). Moreover, rewarding the effort of participants is likely to generate satisfaction and pride (22). Second, almost two-thirds of the subjects said that the instructor did not encourage them to help each other. One possible explanation is that the instructors do not encourage this behaviour because they want to guarantee the safety of participants. However, it has been reported that social interactions with other resident-participants can serve as physical activity motivators (41). Third, one-third of participants found that the instructor did not encourage them to try new exercises. Nonetheless, other studies have confirmed that nursing home residents need variety and innovation in their exercise programmes (Maurer et al. 2018; Baert et al. 2015).
When we investigated the association between characteristics and motivational climate, we found a relationship between the perceived ego-involving motivational climate and the dependency of the participants. This means that those who were more dependent on help in their activities of daily living perceived a more ego-oriented motivational climate than those who were more independent in their activities of daily living. This would suggest that they felt they were being compared with others during group exercise sessions. There is some evidence to suggest that adapted exercises seemed to be essential for older people (38,42). Therefore, several variants of the exercises could be proposed to the residents in order to elicit an optimal execution level in each resident, thus leading to a higher motivational level.
Regarding the practical implications of our results, it seems important to implement an adequate motivational climate during exercise sessions. In the literature, some recommendations for quality physical education interventions were established with, for example, the PAMIA principles (43). Pleasure, achievement, movement, interaction and autonomy are the 5 principles of these recommendations. Although they are not specific to older people, these can be related to the elements identified in our study and are the key elements to prioritize when implementing group exercise sessions in nursing homes. The 3 elements highlighted in our study are related to the interaction among participants (for mutual aid), achievement (for diversified exercises and adapted exercise with a sufficient level of difficulty) and movement (for positive feedback) (43). These elements are also mentioned in the theory of self-determination as well as in the three psychological needs of Bandura (1977), namely, competence (adapted exercises and positive feedback), autonomy (diversified exercises and choices), and relatedness (44,45).
It is important to recognize the possible bias and limitations of this study. The cross-sectional nature of this study allows us to generate descriptive results regarding motivational climate but no causal inferences between variables. The generalisability of these results is subject to certain limitation because our analysis was based on a relatively small sample. Additionally, the composition of the sample of oriented nursing home residents exclusively leads to a bias in the representativeness of the population. The results should be interpreted with caution because the A-PMCEQ was developed for the general population and not specifically for older people.