Because it makes ya feel good.

by Ali Schumacher on September 26, 2012

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I have to admit, I am one of those weirdos who openly enjoys exercising on a regular basis.  If I go a few days without hitting the track or gym I can’t help but feel a little bit off and when asked why I work out so often my reply is consistently, “because it makes me feel good.”

Although my profession of love towards physical activity can sometimes be met with a scoff or odd look, new research suggests that this “pleasure” motivation behind exercise might not be so strange after all.

A study published in the Journal of Obesity last spring argues that the way in which pro-exercise messages attempt to motivate their audience can, in turn, influence overweight women and men in different ways.

The study sample consisted of over 1,500 overweight and obese men and women, aged 40-60 years.  Each participant was randomly chosen to receive one of three advertisements, each framing  physical activity in a different way: the “better health” frame, the “weight loss” frame, and the “daily well-being” frame.  Once presented with the ad, the men and women were asked a series of questions regarding their body image and motivation to work out.

Their number one finding? — Women who were presented with an exercise advertisement emphasizing the effects of physical activity on one’s “daily well-being” reported more autonomous motivation for the activity than those women presented with advertisements focused on weight loss or the health benefits of exercise.

The researchers attribute these findings to the different sources of motivation that these ads tap into.  Losing weight and striving for “better” health are motivations that are inherently external to the individual.  Women who saw these ads felt that they should work out because they would feel like a bad person if they didn’t.  They should lose weight because society values thinness.  Neither ad struck a personal chord with the women.

The “daily well-being” ad, however, focused on increased energy, decreased stress, and generally feeling better every day as a result of physical activity.  It can be argued that this type of motivation, contrary to the other two, is more intrinsic to the individual.

Simply put–when women are motivated to work out on the basis that it will make them feel better each day, they feel more in control, and will likely participate in physical activity more frequently.

It should be noted that results were different for men, with male participants reporting greater autonomous motivation when presented with the “better health” or “weight loss” frames.  More research should be done to enumerate these differences.

Nonetheless, it’s a little reassuring to know that for many middle-aged women, Nike’s slogan of “Just do it” could more accurately be translated to “Just feel good.”



photo credit: <a href=””>Saurabh_B</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>cc</a>