Motivation and emotion/Textbook/Motivation/Exercise

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Motivation and exercise[edit source]

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History[edit | edit source]

It was as early as 1890 when one of the forerunners in empirical psychology, William James, introduced discussion of the many aspects of motivation (Deci & Ryan, 1985). When intrinsically motivated, James theorised that an individual’s attention was drawn to a particular activity, therefore affecting the behaviour related with that activity. Although according to Deci and Ryan (1985), it was Woodworth in 1918 that discovered that an individual’s engagement in a particular activity can also be extrinsically motivated. Woodworth’s theory of extrinsic motivation appeared around the same time as non-motivational theorists Thorndike (1913) and Watson (1913) and therefore did not receive the attention it deserved. As a result of this there was limited research carried out in the following decades, and the research that was taking place was focussed on drive theory, which laid the foundations of Hull’s drive theory in 1943.

What is motivation?[edit | edit source]

Motivation is an internal characteristic displayed in every humman being, enabling each individual to engage in activities that which they desire.

Motivation is an instinctive characteristic displayed within every human. It makes us act upon our instincts to satisfy any need which is being felt at that particular time, whether it is getting a sandwich due to being hungry or by going for a run to satisfy your need to exercise. Motivation initiates our instincts and is a characteristic which allows us to undertake various tasks throughout life (Velez, 2008). Generally speaking, the term motivation describes the reason why a person does something, though it is much more complex than that as it involves many forces which affect our behaviour daily. These include aspects such as the cognitive, biological, social and emotional forces. According to Velez (2008) motivation may act as a fuel which inspirers us to set, compete in and achieve our goals to which we desire.


In a small group (approximately 3-5) write down what you believe motivation is? Try to come up with a group meaning for motivation.

Motivation is what helps us achieve our goals to our fullest desires (Velez, 2008). There are many different components of motivation, though we can focus on three main points: foundation, determination and passion (Cherry, 2010). When talking about the foundation of motivation we are talking about a considered decision to initiate certain behaviours, such as playing for a sporting team and going to pre-season training. Determination at this task would be making your way to as many pre-season trainings as you are able and completing them. Attending these would further not only your fitness but also skills in your desired area of exercise, even though in doing this you are investing a considerable amount of time, effort and possibly money. Whilst passion can be seen as the concentration and effort that you are constantly putting into your training to better yourself in preparation for the season ahead. An example of this could be one member of the team casually appears at pre-season training when they desire, whilst on the other hand another member of the team does not miss a training, puts in his/her best efforts each and every time and therefore is one of the first picked for the team each week during the proper season.

Driving forces

There are two driving forces behind motivation, these being intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. These two motivators are the reasons all tasks are completed by human beings. An intrinsically motivated task is one in which an individual performs for his/her own self satisfaction. It is an internal reward from engaging in that particular activity (Ryan, Frederick, Lepes, Rubio, & Sheldon, 1997). According to Deci and Ryan (1985) this type of behaviour is undertaken as a part of enjoyment, exploration and personal interest within which it does not require the use of a reinforcer to complete the behaviour/ activity.

Extrinsic motivation relies on reinforcers to be present as a direct result of participating in that activity or behaviour. These motivating forces arise outside of the individual and usually require a reward such as a trophy, money, stickers, and food, being praised and possibly socially recognition which is separate from the behaviour itself (Deci & Ryan, 1985). For example a person might go to a job they highly dislike and work for five hours, then at the end of their shift they are rewarded with a monetary amount that has previously been agreed upon.


In the next 5 minutes, individually write down as many tasks as you can where you have been intrinsically motivated.

What is exercise?[edit | edit source]

Regular exercise is extremely good for the human body contributing to many health and psychological benefits. These types of benefits include such things as a reduced risk of obesity, certain cancers, adult onset of diabetes, heart diseases, and most recent findings include it being linked to a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome (Wilson, Mack, & Grattan, 2008). Considering these facts it is astounding that in America alone it is found that over 50% of the adult population does not regularly exercise (Stevenson & Lochbaum, 2008).

Exercise is the ability to increase ones heart rate and move their muscles in a fashion they would not normally do throughout their daily activity.

In modern times exercise is also referred to as physical activity, and when one is engaging in this for a certain purpose it may be called physical fitness. Exercise itself is variable for each individual as some may only exercise to stay fit and healthy at a desired level, whilst others may need to exercise so that they are able to compete during physically taxing events (for example, elderly people may walk to stay physically active, whilst a younger person in training for the 100m at the Olympics would need to be much fitter and completing running/sprint training). Simply speaking, exercise is the movement of your body in a way that increases your intensity to a level you normally would not reach during your usual daily activity. The general aim of exercise is to achieve physical fitness as it raises your heart rate and works your muscles at a more intense rate (Glanville, 2009).

There are many different ways to exercise in today’s society, with all the gym equipment that is now ready available to all individuals. A few of the more common physical activities that people often engage in are walking, running, playing sports and dancing just to name a few. Although when you are thinking about exercising you should choose something that you enjoy and are likely to keep doing, therefore engaging in physical activity more often. If you choose to be physically active the activities you participate in must be considered challenging otherwise it just isn’t exercise.


When you are next actively engaging in physical activity, try to push yourself at a higher intensity for a minimum of 5 minutes.

Theories and research[edit | edit source]

There are many theories and common perceptions as to why people exercise and what motivates them to exercise. These theories cover both an intrinsic view of motivation, looking at the self-determination theory which was developed by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan at the University of Rochester and the incentive theory, which is based more upon the external rewards you may receive from exercise.

Self-determination theory[edit | edit source]

Self-determination theory (SDT) has been comprehensively researched and widely used by psychologists around the world. This theory was initially developed by Deci and Ryan during continuing research at the University of Rochester. The theory which was developed by Deci and Ryan mainly focuses on the importance that intrinsic motivation has on the driving forces of human behaviour. Self-determination theory shows a natural tendency towards the growth and development of individuals; however this does not automatically mean that these individuals will achieve (Deci & Ryan, 1985). When an individual is physically active, they show an increased psychological well being and sense of physical health, therefore living a healthy full life (Ryan, Williams, Patrick, & Deci, 2009). It is important to note that when being linked to physical activity or exercise, the most basic principles of SDT can be either intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. It is important to note that amotivation also has its role in SDT, as motivation has different subtypes which will be explained briefly below (Ryan et al.).

Intrinsic motivation is the internal driving force that compels an individual to engage in physical activity or exercise.

The term amotivation means ‘without motivation’ and therefore would generally not apply to SDT. Although when an individual takes part in physical activity there are many cases within which an individual may have absolutely no intention to act upon what is happening around him/her (Ryan et al., 2009). There may be many reasons for this as the person may lack the confidence to take part in the activity due to personal issues, prior experience or lack of skill to take part. Amotivation goes hand in hand with a sincere lack of self-determination by the individual (Wininger, 2006).

Extrinsic motivation can be defined as taking part in an action or behaviour in order to gain a desired outcome which is completely separate from the activity itself (Deci & Ryan 1985). Extrinsic motivation is broken up into four subtypes of behavioural regulation: external, introjected, identified and integrated. External regulation is most commonly linked to operant conditioning within which it is stated that it is the least self-determined form of extrinsic motivation (Wininger, 2006). Introjected regulation refers to behaviours that are partially internalised, yet are not fully self-determined. Identified regulation refers to tasks which are performed under no pressure due to the fact that they are personally valued and relatively self-determined. Whilst finally, identified regulation is the most self-determined for of extrinsic motivation as the behaviour or action is taking effect as a personal choice (Thogersen-Ntoumani & Ntoumani, 2006).

As a perspective of SDT, intrinsic motivation involves an individual’s ability to deeply understand and engage in activity using a variety of skills that one possesses (Ryan, Williams, Patrick, & Deci, 2009). Intrinsic motivation is a more common factor in SDT as it is associated with the individual who is engaging in the activity. Individuals may be participating for internal reasons such as enjoyment rather than focussing on the outcome that may take effect as a result of the exercise being done (Thogersen-Ntoumani & Ntoumani, 2006).

Self-determination theory plays a large part in human beings engaging, continuing and achieving during physical activity. This has been found to be a very effective theory and tool when looking at what motivates people to exercise. Self-determination is a driving force behind all exercise or physical activity that individuals engage in, whether it is on a regular basis or not. It has the ability to help us sustain physical fitness and to compete at elite levels or to the level in which an individual so desires. To be intrinsically motivated and self-determined to further engage and participate in exercise or physical activity helps us gain greater self satisfaction and healthy well-being.

Using Self-determination theory

Find out whether people have stronger internal or external driving forces and then persuade them accordingly. For internal drive, you might show how they are controlling it and let them choose. For external drive you could show how they are being driven by outer forces and then offer a safe haven for them.

Incentive theory[edit | edit source]

The incentive theory of motivation is more focussed upon the external rewards offered to individuals upon completion of a task. In today’s society there are many reasons why incentives are offered to people. For example, an individual has no interest in exercising, though when offered a chocolate bar upon completion of the exercise they decide this is good enough incentive to engage in the phsy6ical activity. This is considered to be a primary reinforcer (Stevenson & Lochbaum, 2008). Although there are also secondary reinforcers, as the individual may be participating in the activity as a burning desire to fulfil an internal drive for that activity. Although the ultimate goal for this activity is to receive a medal or trophy of some description. An example may be a person that trains for eleven months of the year and plays in the AFL, the ultimate goal here is to be successful in winning the AFL (or local league) grand final and receive a trophy.

Extrinsic motivation involves the environment around you and relies on the presence of a reinforcer upon the completion of the physical activity or exercise. This has nothing to do with the behaviour or activity itself (usually in the form of a trophy/medal).

Summary[edit | edit source]

What motives each individual plays a large role in the reasons behind why we exercise or why we do not exercise. There are many theories that discuss this topic, though the theories of self-determination and incentive theory seem to be the most effective. An individual can be extrinsically motivated to take part in exercise or physical activity, although it is linked with a lower self satisfaction level upon the completion of that activity (Ryan et al., 2009). Self-determination theory shows the link between intrinsic motivation and the need for self satisfaction, displaying that intrinsic motives for exercise or physical activity are more beneficial in terms of health and well-being for an individual (Ryan et al., 2009). Self determination requires an individual to be free from all pressures and future rewards, therefore having the ability to be free from all control and therefore being intrinsically motivated creating a greater sense of self satisfaction.

When talking about physical activity or exercise the link between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is extremely relevant. In either motivational case an individual is involved in exercise; however, their reasons for this engagement may be completely different. For example an individual may be extrinsically motivated to engage in physical activity looking at the incentive or reward at the end of the day, therefore, it is possible that they are focussing on simply wanting to look good for others. Whilst on the other hand an individual can also be intrinsically motivated and it is their internal forces that are driving them to engage in physical activity, showing and focussing on their own individual will and need to stay physically fit and healthy (Ryan, Williams, Patrick, & Deci, 2009).

See also

References[edit | edit source]

Brickell, T., Lange, R., & Chatzisarantis, N. (2010). Applying test operating characteristics to measures of exercise motivation: A primer. British journal of psychology, 101, 345-360.

Cherry, K. (2010). A closer look at some important theories of motivation. Theories of motivation, 1-2.

Courneya, K., & Hellsten, L-A. (2001). Cancer prevention as a source of exercise motivation: an experimental test using protection motivation theory. Health and medicine psychology, 6(1), 59-64.

Deci, E., & Ryan, R. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behaviour. Plenum press: New York. Direct journal. (2008). How exercise helps fat metabolism. Health journal, 1-2.

Frederick, C., & Ryan, R. (2002). Differences in motivation for sport and exercise and their relations with participation and mental health. Journal of sport behaviour, 16(3), 124-146.

Glanville, N. (2009). What is exercise? WLR’s personal trainer, 1.

Glasbergen, R. (2003). Can you exercise on a busy schedule?

Iso-Ahola, S., & St. Clair, B. (2000). Towards a theory of exercise motivation. Quest, 52, 131-147.

Mata, J., Silva, M., Viera, P., Carraca, E., Andrade, A., Coutinho, S., Sardinha, L., & Teixeira, P. (2009). Motivational “spill-over” during weight control: Increased self-determination and exercise intrinsic motivation predict self-regulation. Health psychology, 28(6), 709-716.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2002). Overview of self-determination theory: An organismic dialectical perspective. Handbook of Self- determination Handbook. Rochester, New York: University of Rochester Press. 3–33.

Ryan, R., Frederick, C., Lepes, D., Rubio, N., & Sheldon, K. (1997). Intrinsic motivation and exercise adherence. International journal of sport psychology, 28, 335-354.

Ryan, R., Williams, G., Patrick, H., & Deci, E. (2009). Self-determination theory and physical activity: the dynamics of motivation in development and wellness. Hellenic journal of psychology, 6, 107-124.

Sibire, S., Standage, M., & Vansteenkiste, M. (2009). Examining intrinsic versus extrinsic exercise goals: cognitive, affective, and behavioural outcomes. Journal of sport and exercise psychology, 31, 189-210.

Stevenson, S., & Lochbaum, M. (2008). Understanding exercise motivation: Examining the revised social-cognitive model of achievement motivation. Journal of sport behaviour, 31(4), 389-412.

Thogersen-Ntoumani, C., & Ntoumani, N. (2006). The role of self-determined motivation in the understanding of exercise-related behaviours, cognitions and physical self-evaluations. Journal of sports sciences, 24(4), 393-404.

Velez, S. (2008). What is motivation? Ezine articles, 2008, 1-2.

Wilson, P., Mack, D., & Grattan, K. (2008). Understanding motivation for exercise: A self-determination theory perspective. Canadian psychology, 49(3), 250-256.

Wininger, S. (2006). Self-determination theory and exercise behaviour: an examination of the psychometric properties of the exercise motivation scale. Journal of applied sport psychology, 19, 471-486.

External links