What Motivates You to Exercise?

So you all may have noticed that I haven't been blogging a whole lot in the past couple of weeks. I had that third piece of the tennis elbow series to finish and for some reason I just kept putting it off. I'm sure everyone of you has had moments like that. Moments where you just can't find the motivation to finish something, or start something for that matter. I don't know why it took me so long to finish it. I mean, I like the material that I was writing on. I liked the reading I was doing for it. I just, couldn't. I sat at my computer to write, but instead I would look at online comics, read sports news, laugh at a cat video. You know, other internet stuff.

Anyway, that got me thinking about motivation. What motivates you to exercise? For most I would guess it was weight loss, or your appearance. How many of us exercise because we want to feel better, to be healthier, or just because we enjoy it?

A 2005 study by Kilpatrick, Hebert, and Bartholomew wanted to look at what motivates people to exercise. specifically, is there a difference in what motivates people to play sport vs exercise and is there a difference in what motivates men and what motivates women. What they found was that all participants in the study had a greater motivation to look better, be stronger, have more endurance, reduce stress, manage weight, ill-health avoidance, positive health, and health pressure when participating in regular exercise (weight lifting, etc...) than for participating in sport. Participation in sports was motivated by affiliation, challenge, competition, enjoyment, and social recognition more so than other factors for all subjects. 

What I found interesting is that men reported challenge, competition, social recognition and strength and endurance as higher motivators to participate in physical activity than woman, while women only reported 1 factor to be a higher motivator than men. I'll give you one guess what is it..... yep, weight loss.  Another interesting tidbit is that men rated enjoyment as a significantly more important factor to play sport than it was to exercise. Women didn't tend to rate enjoyment as more important factor for either activity. You can read all sorts of things it to that. Is it because the women in the study just didn't enjoy sport? Is it because of social constructs? Gender roles? You can make your own conclusions to that point. What you might find interesting though is that in European countries, there is a huge emphasis on sport participation at a national level to increase physical activity amongst the people. In the USA, similar programs either don't exists, or are fairly new. Moving on.

The following is extracted from the data in the article. It is the rankings of how why men and women participate in a given activity. What you'll see is the trends mentioned above.

Men's Motivators to Participate in Exercise

  1. Strength and Endurance
  2. Positive Health
  3. Appearance
  4. Nimbleness
  5. Ill-Health Avoidance
  6. Competition
  7. Enjoyment
  8. Revitalization
  9. Challenge
  10. Weight Management
  11. Stress Management
  12. Social Recognition
  13. Affiliation
  14. Health Pressure

Men's Motivators to Participate in Sport

  1. Competition
  2. Enjoyment
  3. Challenge
  4. Affiliation and Strength and Endurance (tied)
  1. Revitalization
  2. Nimbleness
  3. Positive Health
  4. Social Recognition
  5. Stress Management
  6. Appearance
  7. Weight Management
  8. Ill-Health Avoidance
  9. Health Pressure

Women's Motivators to Participate in Exercise

  1. Positive Health
  2. Weight Management
  3. Appearance
  4. Strength and Endurance
  5. Ill-Health Avoidance
  6. Revitalization
  7. Stress Management
  8. Nimbleness
  9. Enjoyment
  10. Challenge
  11. Affiliation
  12. Health Pressure
  13. Competition
  14. Social Recognition

Women's Motivators to Participate in Sport

  1. Affiliation
  2. Enjoyment
  3. Challenge
  4. Competition
  5. Revitalization
  6. Strength and Endurance
  7. Positive Health
  8. Weight Management
  9. Stress Management
  10. Nimbleness
  11. Social Recognition
  12. Appearance
  13. Ill-Health Avoidance
  14. Health Pressure
Where would you rank yourself given these factors for why you participate in sport or exercise? are there any motivators that aren't included that you feel are important? I'd love to hear what you think. I think I would rate myself very similar to the typical man from this study. Although, I think I would rate enjoyment a little higher for exercise... unless it's running. I really don't like running. I do it, but I'd rather lift weights.


Kilpatrick, M., Hebert, E., and Bartholomew, J. (2005). College Students' Motivation for Physical Activity: Differentiating Men's and Women's Motives for Sport Participation and Exercise. Journal of American College Health, 54 (2), 87-94.

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