Motivation and the Brain

Motivation and the Brain – The Desire to Exercise and Be Physically Fit Motivation and the Brain – The Desire to Exercise and Be Physically Fit The motivation that drives people to engage in physical activities like exercise can be analyzed as a result of many contributing factors. Theories exist regarding whether desire can be attributed to extrinsic or intrinsic factors. The brain structures and functions responsible for this type of motivation are complex and unique. Each individual will have his or her own reasons, but ultimately, some key factors can be noted.

The role of Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivators The motivational factors that drive people to engage in physical activities like working out at a fitness club, or running, appear to be mostly intrinsic. Heredity does not seem to be a prominent motivator; however, one’s environment will indeed have some effect. Children raised by athletes will obviously more inclined and motivated to participate in physical activities as an athlete would likely push his or her son or daughter to be athletic like them.

Another increasingly popular source of motivation to work out is the desire to maintain good health, including keeping a healthy body weight. Another possible motivation is the desire one may have to prove to their own selves, the extent of their capacity. The term “self-efficacy” can be summarized with an individual asking himself or herself the following two questions: “Am I capable of doing this activity? ” and “Will I be successful in achieving my goals if I engage in this behavior? ” The internal question specific to this article would be “Am I capable of successfully participating in an ongoing diet and exercise program? Self-efficacy can also be described as situation-specific self-confidence (Grogan, Connor, & Smithson, 2006). Another possible explanation for the motivation to diet and exercise is the Protection Motivation Theory, which suggests that people are motivated to protect themselves from harmful or stressful life events (Deci, 2004). In other words, an individual who maintains his or herself at peak physical condition can develop a sense that he or she is prepared for any disease or threat that may cross his or her path.

Some may become paranoid and overly cautious in considering every possible harm that could fall upon them; this fear is drives them in the relentless pursuit of physical health. Perhaps the most gratifying benefit of exercising is the change it will bring to one’s physique. The tone and definition, weight loss and strength are obvious and can be noticed fairly quickly and easily. Along with these changes come the encouragement and positive feedback from one’s peers; this is a huge motivator.

Research shows that Acknowledgment, Positive Feedback and Encouragement for self-initiation tend to increase intrinsic motivation (Deci, 2004). It does seem the motivation for maintaining physical health is largely intrinsic, previous family medical history, such as inherent life-threatening diabetes could be considered an extrinsic motivator. Pressure placed on individuals by family members and medical professionals regarding the risks of an unhealthy diet and lethargic behavior can be significant motivating factors that would drive one to take action to improve their health.

Both intrinsic motivation and integrated extrinsic motivation are facilitated in situations that are interpersonally supportive, that is, here parents, teachers, managers, health care providers, and coaches understand and acknowledge the perspectives of their children, students, employees, patients, and athletes, respectively, and encourage them to experiment, allow them to try their own solutions to problems, provide them with choices, and respond to their initiations (Deci, 2004).

Brain Structures and functions associated with the motivation to work out An important thing to note the brain structures and functions associated with this type of motivation. The feeling a person experiences in the aftermath of a long training session can be extremely euphoric. One hypothesis revolves around a set of opioid neurotransmitters of which endorphins are a special case. The term endorphin refers to internal morphine.

Endorphins are primarily located in the pain pathways and are responsible for reducing the negative effects of pain stimuli and stressors (Deckers, 2010). Another argument that could be made would be that the gender aspect related to the concern about weight and appearance. It has been suggested that gay men and heterosexual women are under significantly more acute social pressure to attain the culturally valued slender body type (Grogan, Connor, & Smithson, 2006).