motivate, mo-ti-vate; to provide with an incentive; move to action
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation. I’m trying to understand why some people seem to be able to stick with a new exercise program while others can’t.
Are some individuals just more motivated than others? Is it the degree of motivation that matters? Are exercise adherers just more motivated than those who give up? Or are there fundamental differences in what motivates them?
Psychologists talk about two primary types of motivators. Intrinsically motivated behaviors are performed primarily for the satisfaction gained from engaging in the activity itself. In an exercise setting, intrinsic motivators include enjoyment, stress release, mood elevation, skill mastery and improvement in competency.
In contrast, extrinsically motivated behaviors are those that are performed to gain rewards or outcomes that are separate or temporally removed from the behavior itself. Weight loss, increased muscle size and “improved fitness” are the most frequently cited extrinsic motivators of new exercisers.
Researchers have found that, unlike extrinsically motivated behaviors, intrinsically motivated behaviors do not rely on attaining extrinsic goals for their maintenance, and that intrinsic motivators lead to better adherence to exercise programs.
What does all of this mean to the new exerciser?
Well, if your initial motivation to exercise has more to do with enjoyment and being challenged by new skills than with weight loss and improved muscle tone you’re more likely to stick with it!
As a personal trainer and group fitness instructor, this is important to me. It tells me that I need to continue to make my classes and training sessions fun and that I need to continually provide participants with new challenges, letting them know that they’re being given new challenges because they’ve mastered the old ones! I need to be cautious when speaking about exercise for weight loss, instead helping clients to identify their own intrinsic motivators and focusing on short term changes in feelings of well being and changes in attitude toward exercise.
What motivates you?