How To Increase Motivation To Exercise

It motivated 85 percent to continue with their gym programme when they were failing.

It motivated 85 percent to continue with their gym programme when they were failing.

Fear can be used as an excellent motivator for exercise, research finds.

When people imagine themselves getting fat and unattractive, they are more motivated to work out.

The results come from a study where half of 281 gym goers were asked to imagine an unattractive version of themselves they feared becoming.

Fear motivated 85 percent to continue with their gym programme when they were failing.

This is in comparison to only 65 percent pushing on when they were already succeeding.

Obviously success is one of the best motivators to continue, but when failing, fear can be a useful way of getting back on track.

Professor Brett Martin, study co-author, said:

“How consumers see themselves in the future has a strong effect on how motivated they are to keep using a product or service.

When people dwell on a negative future, fear motivates them, yet as they move away from their feared state – a flabby body, or a wrinkled skin – they become less motivated.

At that point, marketers should take advantage of another insight of our study – that of motivating people with a more positive outlook.”

The study also found that thinking positive worked best when people were already succeeding.

But, when people were falling short of their goals in the gym, thinking positive worked less well.

Professor Martin said:

“Once someone moves away from their “feared self” – in this case an unattractive body – because they are successful in the gym, they lose motivation, so highlighting thoughts of being unattractive is unlikely to work.

But at that point, as they become more positive in their outlook, good marketing will build on this and suggest they can do even better.

That type of motivation works for those with a positive outlook.

However marketers should also be aware that those who are thinking positively will become discouraged if they don’t see success.”

The study was published in the journal ACR (Sobh & Martin, 2007).


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This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.

It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.

I try to dig up fascinating studies that tell us something about what it means to be human.

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Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.