Helped by your friend and controlled by your partner? Social exchange processes and exercise

  • P. Rackow
  • H. Giese
  • U. Scholz


Background: Social support and control are relevant for exercising. However, study findings are ambiguous. Possible explanations for these contradictory findings might be that the support and control provided by different members from the individual’s social network are of different kind and that different kinds of support and control are provided by different network members. Therefore, the aim of this project was testing if different members of an individual’s exercise specific network are associated with different facets of exercise related social support and control. Methods: Participants (N=387; 64% female) reported about the social support and control from up to four members of their exercise specific social network. Possible network categories were: partner, friend, colleague, and relative. All models were multi-level models with up to four network members nested in one participant. Findings: Overall, participants experienced differences within their network for the quality of support (χ²(6)=71.24; p <.001) and control (χ²(6)=19.30; p <.001). When comparing all network members, participants reported to receive most support from the partner (b = 0.35, p<.001). Participants reported more emotional (b = 0.63; p <.001) and instrumental support (b = 0.60; p <.001) from partners compared to others, but not more informational support (b = –0.19; p =.115). For control, it appeared that particularly relatives were perceived to be less positively controlling compared to others (b = -0.64; p =.021). Discussion: The results provide a possible explanation for heterogeneous study findings and highlight the importance of assessing support and control in conjunction with the provider