Do you truly enjoy exercise? If you were given a choice between an hour in the gym or a meal with a friend, which would you choose?

While many people may feel that exercise is an all-or-nothing affair, a recent study by Lindwall et al. (2016) suggests that exercise motivation is far more complex. Lindwall et al. make a distinction between intrinsic control, people who believe exercise is personally important and extrinsic control, people who exercise to please someone else. Also, your exercise profile not only takes into account intrinsic and extrinsic motivation but also the extent to which you feel that exercise fulfils your personal needs. These are the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of exercise, that according to Lindwall et al. need to be separately identified.

Lindwall et al. tested their theory and found that individuals who orient towards intrinsic goals were more likely to feel motivated and believe that exercise fulfils their needs.

What’s the key?

If you are not motivated to exercise, then it might be best to start with extrinsic goals and hope that intrinsic ones will kick in later. Therefore, finding an exercise buddy, or buying a fitness tracker might provide you with that extrinsic motivation you need to get your exercise started. However, the key to long-term motivation is the desire to improve your health, skills or even your friendships.

Read more: What’s Your Exercise Motivational Profile?

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