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Good Exercise Motivation and Bad Exercise Motivation

States of mind

There’s a short but intriguing article on More magazine’s Web site called The One Exercise Motivation That Really Works. In it, psychologist Michelle Segar is briefly interviewed about reasons for exercising; her conclusion is that most of the people she’s studied exercise for the least motivating reasons.

While the article is aimed specifically at women in their 40’s and up, the points in it are potentially useful for pretty much anyone. Here’s the money quote: “Only 26 percent of the women in my study said they exercised for mental health benefits, but those women exercised 30 percent more often than those who stated their top reason as physical health benefits or weight loss.” By “mental health benefits,” she’s referring to exercising because it relieves stress and increases happiness.



  1. Kaizan  •  Aug 17, 2009 @4:11 am

    I think the value of mental health benefits (stress relief) is that the effect is instantaneous. With physical effects like fitness or weight loss, the effect takes a lot longer, so is less of a motivator.

    Incidentally, this article in time magazine refutes the link between exercise and weight loss:,8599,1914857,00.html

  2. Luc  •  Aug 17, 2009 @9:23 am

    Kaizan, that’s a really good point; I hadn’t thought of that way before, but it makes a lot of sense. Immediate feedback is a lot easier to connect, from all I’ve seen.

    I did read that Time article. The author is frankly a little confused, if you ask me. He’s brought up some interesting research, but seems to miss some important points. I actually wrote up the problems I saw in it for a post I have scheduled for tomorrow, and I wrote a letter to the editor to Time as well in hopes that they’ll at least publish that. I think his uncareful thinking could do a lot of damage, to tell you the truth.

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