Autonomy Enhances Running Efficiency

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Journal of Sports Sciences

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Performer autonomy has been shown to contribute to effective motor performance and learning. Autonomy support is therefore a key factor in the OPTIMAL theory of motor learning (Wulf, G., & Lewthwaite, 2016). The purpose of the present study was to examine whether supporting individuals’ need for autonomy by giving them choices would increase movement efficiency. Such a finding would be consistent with the OPTIMAL theory prediction that autonomy facilitates the coupling of goals and actions. Participants (N = 32) were asked to run at a submaximal intensity (65% of VO2 max) for 20 minutes. Before the run, participants in a choice group were able to choose 5 of 10 photos as well as the order in which they would be shown to them on a computer screen during the run. Control group participants were shown the same photos, in the same order, chosen by their counterparts in the choice group. Throughout the run, oxygen consumption and heart rate were significantly lower in the choice group than the control group. Thus, providing autonomy support resulted in enhanced running efficiency. The present findings are in line with the notion that autonomy facilitates goal-action coupling.


Choice; Oxygen consumption; Heart rate; Movement economy


Sports Sciences



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