top of page

Collaboration with Tangible Science: What is the Psychology Behind Exercise?

Updated: Aug 15, 2022

Exercise psychology is a discipline that helps one understand how behavior and well-being is modified when one engages in physical activity. It helps one understand the positive psychological impacts of exercise and the psychological reasoning behind the decision to exercise or not exercise. Understanding such may be beneficial for those who require the motivation necessary for exercise.

Exercise has multiple psychological benefits. For instance, regular exercise releases endorphins and other natural brain chemicals to improve mood and well-being. Similarly, exercise and physical activity can be used to cope with anxiety. Exercise can also boost one’s energy, supporting individuals to overcome mental burdens that can result in low energy and fatigue. In fact, studies have shown that moderate aerobic exercise is associated with slow wave (or deep) sleep, which boosts energy. Moreover, exercising regularly can boost self-confidence, as setting and meeting exercise goals and getting into shape can help individuals feel achieved. Given these psychological benefits as well as the physical benefits of exercise, exercise is a powerful tool for a happy life.

Even though exercising regularly has multiple benefits and is essential for a long, healthy life, many choose not to exercise. Both external and internal factors influence one’s division to exercise or not exercise. External factors may include body image goals, social benefits, and aesthetics. Internal factors include personal interest or enjoyment. Moreover, external factors of stigmas with weight, body dissatisfaction, self-esteem, and exercise motivation are correlated with a decreased desire to exercise. Furthermore, many people choose not to exercise because it is not necessarily something that requires immediate attention. For instance, it is not something as important to someone as the instant relief from eating food or drinking water is. It is also much easier to avoid this task when it conflicts with busy work schedules or family obligations. These psychological barriers must be overcome in order to exercise regularly.

These mental barriers to exercise can be overcome through multiple techniques. It can be easier to exercise everyday if you commit to exercise with someone close, make exercise a priority, exercise daily after a certain task, exercise even when it feels difficult, replace mechanized activities with a bit of exercise, and appreciate exercise even when you don’t notice changes right away. These methods help implement the mindset that exercise is important. Implementing a mindset that exercise is important will help you exercise everyday and receive both the psychological and health benefits of exercise.



10 Easy Ways to Make Exercise a Habit in 2016. MCCS.

Geller, K., Renneke, K., Custer, S., and Tigue, G. Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motives Support Adults’ Regular Physical Activity Maintenance. NIH. 2018 Jun 17.

Psychology of Exercise: Improvements in Mental Health. Maryville University.

Sleep and Performance. American Thoracic Society.

Vartanian, L.R. and Shaprow, J.G. Effects of Weight Stigma on Exercise Motivation and Behavior: A Preliminary Investigation among College-aged Females. Journal of Health Psychology. 2008 January 1.

Why we should exercise - and why we don't. Harvard Medical School. 2019 August 26.


Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page