Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation and Exercise Adherence
By Scott DiNardo
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines motivation as 1) the act or process of motivating, the condition of being motivated 2) a motivating force, stimulus, or influence: Incentive, Drive. A more comprehensive definition of motivation may be the interaction of cognitive, affective, behavioral, and social processes contributing to purposeful, often goal directed behavior. As one can see, motivation is not a single entity or trait but rather a dynamic model made up of many different components. Motivation, as it pertains to exercise, is often separated into two distinct categories. The first category focuses on external (extrinsic) factors involved in motivation. Some of the extrinsic factors involved with exercise include personal appearance, social support, and facilities, just to name a few. The second category focuses on internal (intrinsic) factors associated with exercise adherence. There are many intrinsic motivators to exercise such as health factors, personal competence, increased energy, and decreased stress. External motivators are often what one thinks of when beginning an exercise routine. Many people start an exercise program to lose weight or get in better shape. These external rewards may be enough to motivate an individual to initially take part in an exercise program. However, research has shown that body-related motives are not, on average, sufficient to sustain regular exercise regimens, and thus should not be made the most salient justification for engaging in exercise. An example of this could be a person motivated to exercise by the promise or idea that exercise will help them lose weight. An individual early in their exercise program may lose a fair amount of weight by losing mostly water. On the outside this person focusing on the end goal of losing weight may be motivated at the sight of the numbers on the scale decreasing. However, what...
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