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Scheduled or Spontaneous Exercise? Which Motivates You More?

A study has found that older adults seem to be more motivated by scheduled workouts, including the role of a fitness coach or a significant person involved in their exercise goals, compared to those getting exercise only through spontaneous physical activity.

Researchers tested a mathematical and psychological model on two different groups of older adults: one doing spontaneous physical activity and one engaged in an exercise class. This theoretical model tried to understand what is most important to encourage and maintain the intention to do physical activity.  

The results suggest a psychological construct called autonomous motivation, in which people experience a sensation of value and self-worth tied to the activities. Participants who felt a sense of autonomous motivation during an exercise program were more successful at beginning and maintaining a more healthy, active lifestyle, despite possible interruptions caused by physical discomfort or scheduling challenges.  

The researchers published their findings in the journal Gerotarget, a section of Oncotarget. Psychologists from Sapienza University of Rome, led by Fabio Lucidi, PhD; partnered with the American research team of Antonio Giordano, MD, PhD, director of the Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine, Department of Biology, Temple University; and the University of Siena, Italy, to produce the study. 

The aging of the world’s population is a steadily growing phenomenon, with the older adult population expected to triple by the year 2050. Therefore, taking care of older adults is considered an important social goal. Physical activity and exercise are two behaviors that may prevent diseases, cognitive decline, and loneliness among older adults. Despite the well-established positive effects of physical activity and exercise, data shows that few older adults are engaged in these behaviors.

This article was adapted from information provided by the Sbarro Health Research Organization.