Mental Health and Physical Activity


            Physical activity can be defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure. It has been known for many years that being physically active is good for your body because it helps to lose weight, reduce stress, increase muscle mass to help you look better and prevent many diseases such as heart disease or diabetes. If physical activity has all these potential benefits for the human body, why wouldn’t it also be good for our brains? After all, the brain is probably one of the most important parts of our bodies! 


Research has shown that the benefits of physical activity include:


·      Physical activity can be as effective at relieving anxiety as any other known treatment, while being much cheaper.


·      Involvement in physical activity programs has been found to provide holistic benefits such as social interaction opportunities, positive emotional experiences that lead to a sense of achievement, and general improvements in mental wellbeing (Tyson, et al., 2010).


·      The relationship between physical activity and mental health is largely due to socialization that occurs during participation in these activities. This means that making friends while being active can help support your mental wellbeing (VanKim & Nelson, 2013).


·      Research has shown a close association between increased cardiovascular fitness levels and an increase in academic performance for both children in school and young adults attending university (Van, et al., 2011).

Intrinsic Motivation


Intrinsic motivation occurs when we act without any obvious external rewards and is the reason why we perform certain activities for inherent enjoyment and satisfaction. Being motivated from within ourselves is an incredibly important aspect of being a successful and healthy individual. People tend to be more motivated to achieve their goals when they have personal meaning, and the goals are tied to their self-esteem. Think about it; are you more likely to start an exercise program if someone else tells you to, or if you genuinely want to become a healthier person?  Finding a way to intrinsically motivate yourself is an essential part of being able to learn, grow, and realize your full potential in life.


            Some of the ways people can be Intrinsically Motivated include:


·      A desire for knowledge. This occurs when you feel pleasure or satisfaction from learning new information, or a new task that you did not previously know.

·      A sense of accomplishment and achievement. This occurs when you feel enjoyment after completing a task, or achieving a goal that you have set for yourself. Completing a weight loss goal or adhering to a workout program for a set amount of time are good examples.

·      A sense of stimulation. This occurs when an individual perceives an activity or goal as fun, or exciting. Examples include hiking, kayaking, skydiving, and rock climbing.



Extrinsic Motivation


Extrinsic motivation comes from outside of us and refers to the drive to participate in activities that will knowingly give us external rewards. These rewards can either be tangible objects, such as medals or trophies, or they can be psychological, such as praise from an instructor.  Much like intrinsic motivation, this type of motivation is important to being happy and successful in life because it keeps us wanting to achieve our goals in order to get some type of gratification.



            Some of the ways people can be Extrinsically Motivated include:


·      Integrated Regulation. This occurs when an activity is personally important to an individual because of a desirable outcome, such as winning money, rather than because of an interest in the activity itself.

·      External Regulation. This occurs when you are motivated to do something solely to achieve an external reward, such as money or good grades.

·      Identified Regulation. This occurs when an individual acts a certain way because of the importance that is ascribed to the behavior, rather than the task itself.


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