Exercise Psychology

Sport psychology features a heck of a lot more here than exercise psychology so I thought I’d an 8 month late post about general exercise psychology…

Exercise psychology is concerned with understanding the psychological factors associated with health related physical activity – the determinants, consequences, and correlates.

  • Determinants – adoption and adherence, dropout rates, non-participation, excessive participation, the self, intensity, duration, frequency, barriers to exercise, participation motives.
  • Consequences – psychological and emotional effects of exercise, body image, mental health, emotional responses, stress reactivity, interventions.

After living in Scandinavia where people seem to exercise because they don’t know what else to do with free time, why the heck do people exercise?

  1. Improved physiological health/physical fitness
    1. lowered mortality and morbidity.
    2. Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, some cancers, diabetes
    3. lower blood pressure
    4. helps with weight loss/management
  2. Improved psychological/emotional health
    1. reduces/alleviates depression, stress, anxiety and negative mood
    2. enhances positive mood, self esteem and sleep
    3. improved body image
    4. improves social relationships

There seems to be a bombardment of healthy lifestyles that we should follow – which is not necessarily a bad thing – but 20-50% exercisers drop out within the first six months and there is a gap between people’s intentions and their actual exercise behaviour. We’ve all been there on New Year’s Day with big hopes of the year ahead more often than not fall flat.

A lot of it is down to self-efficacy, which in simple terms is the belief that you can do it! Whatever it may be. Unless you believe you have the ability to do something then you’re unlikely to have the incentive to do it.


We are also influenced by impression motivation, as can be seen on instagram and facebook. Individuals are motivated by the impressions of themselves in others’ minds e.g. I want to be seen as this great vegan cross-fitter. And impression construction is used to facilitate this process by enhancing self-concept; individuals will alter their social image and meet target values e.g. to be seen as super vegan cross-fitter, I will train 4 times a week at the gym and live a vegan life, I’ll post gym selfies. Often on social media you post your highlights, you don’t post the photos of you laying on the sofa with a double chin with food wrappers all round you like a graveyard of shame.

Thirdly, self-presentation is involved because we are motivated to engage in exercise for appearance (social physique anxiety) and social identity. Our choice of exercise is limited by this factor as is the quality of the exercise. We’ve seen the memes that vilify women who wear a full face of make up to the gym as only being there to win a man’s affection rather than actually exercising.

So there you have it… a quick and dirty toe dip into the realm of exercise psychology!


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