By Emma Young
Think back to the last time you did some exercise. What exactly made you get up and do it? Was it because it was planned? Or because you had a strong urge to exercise (or maybe a bit of both)?
Traditionally, researchers have studied a person’s general inclination to exercise and have explored strategies for increasing their exercise levels over a week, month, or more. However, a team led by Matt Stults-Kolehmainen of Yale University, Yale-New Haven Hospital, and Columbia University are arguing with new work in Limits in Psychology that it is also important to consider temporary changes in the current desires, desires and urges for physical activity and also rest. “Usually we understand motivation as a more stable construct – e. B. ‘I am not motivated today’ – or as a characteristic – ‘I am not a motivated person’. This new perspective looks at motivation right now“Says Stults-Kolehmainen. And the team believes that influencing these feelings can encourage people to exercise more often.
In a first paper published in 2020, the team explored the concept of considering states of motivation to understand why and when people do sports. In the new paper they report on the creation of a new scale for evaluating these conditions.
Their CRAVE (Cravings for Rest and Volitional Energy Expenditures) scale was developed from a series of studies of students and adult participants. The final version contains a total of 10 elements that relate to physical activity (e.g. the desire to “move my body” or “train my muscles”) and are also seated (e.g. the desire to “ just sit down ”or)“ Don’t do anything active ”.) Results from all studies showed that these feelings can change quickly. For example, after a 50-minute lecture, a group of students reported that they currently had significantly higher scores for wanting to move – and lower scores for wanting to rest – than before. A separate group who received a strenuous treadmill task showed the opposite pattern.
These particular results might not sound like that surprising – but when it comes to strategies to help people exercise more, the team believes the potential importance of these momentary motivational states has been underestimated. A long period of sitting or strenuous exercise clearly affects these conditions, but other things could also do so. For example, as the researchers suggest, future studies should examine the possible impact of the time of day or an individual’s eating habits. Some influences can also last longer: The team’s two-year study of a community group of adults reported in the new publication found that participants’ momentary motivation to exercise declined during this period, while their motivation to to rest in trend. “Therefore, more resources are needed to understand how desires can evolve over a longer period of time (e.g. seasonally, over years) and how to intervene,” they write.
Ultimately, the team hopes for interventions that trigger or reinforce immediate training needs. Stults-Kolehmainen is optimistic in this regard. He gives this example: “Interestingly, just reading about wants or desires to move and be active could trigger wants / desires to move and be active – and people are actually able to perceive this and how we believe we will act accordingly. “
Personally, I know that every time I see someone training in a movie (I think of Sarah Connor or even Rocky Balboa, for example), I get a real urge to exercise. If I could measure this exposure at some point in the day when exercise actually came in handy (rather than when I’m on the sofa with the kids) I could imagine it working to push me up and out.
– Measurement of states of motivation for physical activity and inactivity: development and validation of the CRAVE scale
Emma Young (@EmmaELYoung) works at BPS Biomedarticles