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Fitness Professional's Handbook: people exercising on cover

In exercise psychology there are two types of motivation. These are intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic refers to an internal feeling that drives the athlete. Extrinsic refers to external desires.

Extrinsic motivation:Comes from external sources. People want to have external success, wealth, fame or recognition.

Intrinsic motivation:Comes from internal sources. People want to experience the positive feelings that come from exercise.

Tip:Intrinsic motivation lasts longer. On average, people who have intrinsic motivation tend to exercise longer and enjoy it more.


No, bodybuilder with shaved head

In these examples, Stephen, Melanie and Jacob are exercising to influence external parts of their lives. They are not exercising because they like exercising or want to exercise for its own sake. This is extrinsic motivation.

Stephen:Exercises to become more athletic for the football team. By playing football, Stephen hopes to get an attractive girlfriend.

Melanie:Exercises to improve her already attractive figure. She hopes to be more attractive to men.

Jacob:Thinks he is weak and small.
He is intimidated by the bigger boys at school.
He wants not to be threatened by other boys.



What about intrinsic motivation for exercising? With intrinsic motivation, you are motivated by how exercise makes you feel. You may simply enjoy the exercise itself. With many kinds of exercise, you get an endorphin high.

Stephen:Exercises regularly because he knows it makes his life better. It gives him a more cheery disposition.

Why I Started Lifting Weights

Melanie:Exercises because she really enjoys running. She loves the thrill of the runner's high she sometimes experiences.

Jacob:Exercises because he loves the feeling of lifting weights and the pump he experiences. Lifting weights balances his life.

Every Person Should Lift Weights


Research results

The topics of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation have been extensively researched. One study describes how intrinsic motivation improves our attitudes towards life. This study was done at the University of Zaragoza in Spain.

Specifically, the direct effects of intrinsic motivation on physical self-concept, and of physical self-concept on satisfaction with life were significant....

Relationships between intrinsic motivation

Having fun and enjoying exercise was found to give people more psychological well-being. How important is enjoying exercise? This study indicates it is extremely important. It is one thing that can improve your entire attitude about life.

In conclusion, people who perform physical exercise regularly, and who have fun over time will tend to have a better physical self-perception and, consequently, more psychological well-being. Relationships between intrinsic motivation



Is extrinsic motivation better or worse? It probably depends most on your situation in life and your personality. For many top athletes, their motivation is a mix of the two.
They become famous
and wealthy,
but also enjoy exercising.

Tip:For regular people, intrinsic motivation is more rewarding. Most of us won't ever become rich or famous from our exercise routines.

So:To continue with exercise, it is best to find motivation from within: intrinsic motivation.

Sports and Exercise Popularity


Strong and healthy: tips

I focus on the effects of physical training on my mind. There are two main parts to this. It causes physical changes in your brain and increases level of certain feel-good hormones. And it forces you to impose discipline.

Tip:In physical training, you work hard and it does not become much easier over time.

And:This challenge enhances the psychological benefit of the activity. It provides a sense of accomplishment.

Caution: exclamation mark

Unfortunately, exercising may cause you to spend less time doing other important tasks. To gain the positive effects of physical training, these sacrifices are necessary. The sacrifice may enhance the mental benefits of training.

Exercise should be seen as a prerequisite to all other activities in life. Making physical training your top priority in life does not mean it is the most important thing you do. It means you should do it before you do anything else.

So:Don't stop the physical training in your life.
Focus on the effects of the training upon your mind.
This may keep you motivated.


Man with large, muscular arms flexing: 14 inches

People sometimes ask me how I stay motivated to exercise every day. I thought it would be a good idea to share my motivation. I think others could adapt my ideas to their own lives.

Looking good. Fitness is such a complicated topic. On one level, fit people are better looking than less-fit people. Their bodies are firm and they seem to glow. Their clothes fit better and they attract attention and stares.

Opinion:I believe many in the world are just not shallow enough to focus hours a day on their appearance.

And:For many, working out to look hot is just not going to work. I don't care that much about my appearance in the long run.

Young man with strong arms flexing

Being healthy. Let's remember that working out is critical to being healthy too. Over my life I have had a selection of medical problems. I have had more problems than average for people my age in the United States of America.

Improving my health, so I can feel well throughout the day, keeps me coming back to my workouts.
I come back month
and after month,
year after year. My workouts directly improve a few of my medical problems.

Tip:The effects of exercise on my health make me a believer in daily exercise. But it is fun to get attention in public for your physique.

Exercise at 4AM


Positive attitude is everything. Occasionally when I go to my gym, I notice someone who doesn't want to be there. You can tell by how they act—even what exercises they do. Being positive is so hard in life.

I am the same way as everyone else. I tend to get depressed and feel discouraged. But exercise and going to the gym has positive effects, even while having some negative effects like muscle soreness and membership fees.

Tip:You can learn to keep the positive effects, endorphins and good feelings, foremost in your mind when you think of the gym.

Narcissus: man looking down

Appearances are important. I cannot argue with that statement. But often there are few ways to change our appearances. Someone like me is never going to be extremely beautiful. I look more average than that.

But:You can learn that exercise is about so much more than just your appearance.

Thus:If you emphasize non-appearance aspects of your workouts, you possibly can feel more positive about them.



Let's suppose you are overweight. You don't look like an average fitness model. Every time you do your yoga class, your Pilates or your weight lifting, you can think about how unattractive you are.

Alternatively, you can focus on the positive effects of the exercise routine. Not focusing on your appearance will make you happier. This will allow you to enjoy your exercise even if you don't look perfect.

Tip:If you do look like a fitness model, you will probably be happier focusing on the positive effects as well.

Laugh. Here's a tip that I tend to benefit from. Laugh about your experiences at the gym and talk to people about the gym. Tell people about the experiences you have there. People tend to support you.


Bodybuilder buttoning shirt up

I encourage people to exercise for the reasons they find most important. Often people are concerned about their appearance. I think it is a good idea to be mindful of your appearance, but not to focus extensively on it.

It is desirable and fun to look attractive. There will always be someone less attractive and more attractive than any single person. Basing too much of your workout routine on your physical attractiveness leads to disappointment.

Because:It is an unrealistic expectation. You cannot match the physiques in the magazines in every way.

In contrast, a better goal to focus on is your health and happiness. Exercise improves your physical health—and your mental health. You will have no magazine models to compare yourself to on this metric. This is an intrinsic goal.


The less superficial your goals regarding your workouts are, the more likely you will succeed in the long term. Human beings can seek happiness their whole lives. But we cannot look beautiful every moment for the rest of our lives.

Tip:Seeking happiness and focusing on health is a long-term effective motivation.

Muscle Man


Strong back: male

When I go to my gym, I notice that the walls are covered with mirrors. Some lifters might want to check their form while exercising with free weights. The mirrors are also around the treadmills and other cardiovascular machines.

Appearances versus health. I have some pretty strong opinions about appearances and health. Your health is much more important than your appearance. But your appearance may improve as your health improves—the two are connected.

Motivation is an important aspect of physical fitness. It is easier for people to motivate themselves if they feel the benefits are to their health. Exercising for your health is always acceptable.

Big muscular chest

However:Exercising so you can exploit your appearance for personal gain might not be.

Note:Using your appearance for personal gain is nor necessarily bad. But many realize this is not meaningful in the long term.

People Stare at Me


Why do gyms have so many mirrors? My opinion is that the gym is not so much about our external selves, but our internal selves. The most important health benefits taking place during and after exercise are in our internal organs.

They occur in our hearts and our lungs and our muscles we cannot fully see. Physical fitness is inside of you, not outside of you. Exercising is not so much about your appearance but rather your health and thoughts.


Gluteus maximus of muscular man in shorts: butt

Motivation is sometimes related to respect. Most of us want respect. But few of us get it. As a person interested in physical fitness, I have wondered: Can being physically fit cause people to respect you more?

Before I started working out, I did not get as much feedback about my appearance. After I became more fit, I recognized people seemed to think more of me and expected greater things from me. People started asking me advice.

Yes:Becoming more fit made people respect me more. It does make people think I am more motivated and likely to succeed.


Prison: Alcatraz jailhouse

Inmates like to lift weights. But they have as many problems with motivation as everyone else. I did some research into prison and weight lifting. Fortunately I was not forced to do this.

Prison, Lifting Weights

Tip:Please do not commit any crimes or do anything that people think should land you in prison.



I have noticed in some families that the younger brother (or the youngest one) is more interested in building muscle and fitness. Is there any reason behind this? Why is the younger brother more motivated?

Note:The younger brother in some families may be more accustomed to being smaller, or even picked on. But this is not always true.

Younger Brother Stronger?


Muscle pictures, arms

I asked an African-American friend about her experience with physical fitness and respect. I became acquainted with Melanie in the gym where we work out. She said, "I think so. My girl friends look up to me more now that I lost weight."

They often try to be like me, and they didn't before I started working out. I think people respect me more in public, both women and men.

It may be that people respect most that which they admire. No one will argue with me when I say that people admire those who are physically fit. It is an ideal to which many aspire.

Thus:These experiences support the idea that an increased level of fitness can lead to more respect.


Extrinsic and intrinsic motivations both have their benefits. There is usually a combination of the two. Motivation that is heavy on intrinsic factors may last longer. This results in a more successful exercise routine.