Self-reported Reasons for Motivation to Exercise and Association with Mental Health

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Thomas White and Jason Woodruff, Brigham Young University

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Exercise has been shown to be an effective adjunct to therapy in combating depression symptoms (Josefsson, Lindwall, and Archer, 2014; Seime and Vickers, 2006; Stathopoulou, Powers, Berry, Smits, and Otto, 2006). However, it can be difficult to motivate individuals who experience depressive symptoms to begin and maintain an exercise routine (Seime and Vickers, 2006). Here we investigate which motivations might help those who demonstrate symptoms of depression to begin and maintain an exercise regimen. This study examined Frequency and Duration of exercise as well as motivation to exercise and relationship to scores on a Depression scale. A sample of 184 BYU undergraduate students taking psychology classes participated in the study. Controlling for gender, we collected data regarding participants’ current Depression symptoms, exercise regimens, and motivations for exercising (for Sociality, Competition, and Fitness). Multiple regression analyses showed Duration and Frequency of exercise were negatively correlated with Depression. Furthermore, motivation for Fitness was positively correlated with Depression scores and Competition was negatively correlated with Depression scores. We also found that Motivation for Sociality was negatively correlated with Depression scores. We explore possible reasons for these findings. Overall, we show that Sociality and Competition may be the most potent motivators in helping college students maintain motivation to exercise. To our knowledge, there are few studies that have examined motivation to exercise in junction with depression symptoms. The results have practical implications for clinicians who may recommend exercise to their clients to encourage exercising to reduce depressive symptoms.