I have noticed differences between how my friends and I are motivated with regards to exercise, and would like to better understand what is influencing this difference psychologically.

Personally, I am indifferent to running events. I have run for its own sake on my own, both at novice and intermediate levels; training myself until I could run 5k or 10k regularly. I once did a half marathon distance on my own simply as I was curious whether I could do it. I feel absolutely no motivation to run as part of a group, nor do I feel any motivation to run for the reward of getting a time or rank or medal or what have you.

However, I recognise that this mindset is unusual when compared to my friends. One friend started running with a "couch to 5k" group, another is keen to train for a half marathon event, another is a semi-professional athlete, etc. The point is that most people I know who run seem to be motivated differently.

What explains the difference between these types of motivation? This is not to ask what drives motivation generally, but specifically what is the neurological and thus psychological root cause for individuals being motivated by different sorts of things, in this case about why people run as a form of exercise.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Psychology.SE. What have you read in the subject of motivation and what can affect motivation? There can be a few things psychologically which can cause low motivation and some can be linked to physiological issues. $\endgroup$ Jul 30, 2019 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisRogers I have read about the relationship between dopamine and motivation, but the question between high and low motivation isn't what is being asked. This is about what is driving the differences in types of motivation between individuals who are attempting similar tasks, in this case running. What is the neurological basis for this? $\endgroup$
    – user23708
    Jul 30, 2019 at 15:07
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Related: psychology.stackexchange.com/q/10410/7001 $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Aug 5, 2019 at 4:50

1 Answer 1


Your question is really broad and can encompass libraries. However, to add my 2-cents worth regarding

specifically what is the [...] psychological root cause for individuals being motivated by different sorts of things...

I would say that a lot of this has to do with external factors, and specifically external sources promoting exercise to be 'healthy', including peer pressure and multimedia.

To pin this global effect on our way of thinking down to

[the] specific[...] neurological root

is not really feasible in a single answer in the SE framework, as it is just way too complex to grasp on a single web page in a Q&A forum I'm afraid. But the between-subject differences can, at least partly, be explained by environmental differences.

- Brody & Inoue, Issues Innov Nursing Practice, 218-27

  • $\begingroup$ To say the differences are caused mostly by external factors, this suggests the internal neurological basis is effectively the same? A motivation is a motivation is a motivation; akin to Harris' conclusion that a belief is a belief is a belief. It seems then possible to conclude fairly concisely that motivation driven by the same neurology regardless of what form that motivation may take, be it social, reward, or otherwise. $\endgroup$
    – user23708
    Jul 31, 2019 at 8:24

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