YOUR BEST LIFE
Tips for Living Healthy in South Arkansas
Manager, JRMC Wellness Centers
Every action we take is due to some form of motivation, including exercise. I sincerely hope we are all being motivated positively to exercise. However, even if we are, there may be a much more profound question with more lasting implications: is the motivation intrinsic or extrinsic?
We all know individuals who seem to constantly be at battle with that little inner voice telling them to “move”. Or even worse, they may actually NOT be in battle with it, having learned to ignore it all together! Can this person be motivated to exercise? Of course! Friends and family can give encouragement. They may be prompted to exercise to receive incentives at work like reduced insurance rates. They may be inspired to action by the accolades and prizes received from winning a sporting event. Doctors can entice the behavior by explaining the consequences of inaction. All these are examples of extrinsic motivation: motivation “outside” the individual. Extrinsic motivation isn’t bad. Every individual who is extrinsically motivated to exercise is still exercising. But… is the reward for the activity some “prize” or is it a stronger, healthier body?
Most all of us can probably say, as well, that we know people who seem compelled to move. That person who has a little inner voice urging them to do something physical. It is typically very evident that the individual who is always physically active seems to be lit from within. They have something INSIDE that drives them to do the things they do. This is intrinsic motivation. While there can be no doubt that this individual appreciates the short and long term results they experience, appreciation is not the force driving their action. These individuals are interested in and take enjoyment from feeling their bodies move, from lifting more weight, from running a faster 5K, etc. They view physical activity as a positive addition to their lives. They seek out new things and new challenges.
The issue with the different types of motivation is their opposing tendencies toward sustainability. This concept is somewhat ironic as most exercise programs BEGIN as a result of extrinsic motivation. Maybe there was some event in the future that the new exerciser had to “get in shape for”. Or maybe physical activity was the alternative to physician prescribed medication. As stated earlier, these are perfectly valid reasons to begin an exercise program. Research has proven, however, that extrinsic motivation is rarely a sustaining method of maintaining an exercise program.
Someone who is intrinsically motivated does not really need encouragement because the activity itself is enjoyable. Additionally, the mental aspects of physical activity such as reduced stress, decreased depression, and improved concentration stem from intrinsic motivation. Those motivated by extrinsic factors, however, often attach some imaginary outcome to the activity: losing weight will help in attracting a mate, or make a classmate jealous at a class reunion, or make them a better job prospect. The problem lies in the fact that whether you got the job or you didn’t, that motivating factor is now gone. And constantly searching for some external motivation is neither rewarding nor conducive to reaching long-term goals.
So, what’s the takeaway? Do whatever you have to do to begin a program of physical activity. But, after your program has begun (and you get through those initial stages of soreness, awkwardness, etc.), find something positive from that workout to focus on at the end. We all know what “good tired” feels like. Can you lift more weight for a given number of reps than you could a few days/weeks ago? How does one lap around the track feel as compared to 3-4 months ago? Better? I bet so. By taking these simple little notes in your head after each workout you are internalizing your activity. The more you internalize, the more motivated you will be to continue. The more motivated you are to continue, the more you “own” your health and well-being!
The JRMC Wellness Centers, located in Pine Bluff and White Hall, offer a variety of fitness options for all ages and interests. Free weights, machines, cardio equipment, personal trainers and a full schedule of Les Mills classes are available at both facilities. For more information call the Pine Bluff (541-7890) or White Hall (850-8000) facility.