Motivated members in fitness clubs

gimnasio, Retención | Por Jan Middelkamp

08 November 2013 0 Respuesta

One of the most used key words in the global fitness industry is motivation. But what is motivation? And how can we understand the principles behind motivation? Lets first define three important concepts:


1. Self-motivation: this is a behavioral tendency of a person in order to ‘go through with something’ and maintain behavior. For example you keep on running on a treadmill, even when you are totally exhausted.

2. Motives: these are relatively stable factors resulting from characteristics that can stimulate members to display specific behavior. Examples are weight loss or improving health.

3. Motivation: these are factors that decide which behavior is shown at what moment. Motivation is less stable than motives. A member can be demotivated but still wants to lose weight.

On of the most important theories on motivation is the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) by Deci & Ryan. This is a so-called meta-theory that begins with the assumption that all individuals have three fundamental psychological needs:

1. Compentence: this refers to feeling effective in one’s ongoing interactions with the social environment and experiencing opportunities to exercise and express one’s capacities.

2. Relatedness: this refers to feeling connected to others, to caring for and being cared for by those others, to having a sense of belongingness both with other individuals and with one’s community.

3. Autonomy: this refers to being perceived origin or source of one’s own behavior.

Based on these key components, the SDT evolved in the form of four mini-theories: a. cognitive evaluation theory; b. organismic integration theory; c. causality orientations theory; d. basic needs theory. For the purpose of member retention and motivation to fitness, the SDT is comprised of five human motivation theories. The SDT assumes that the more intrinsic and autonomous the motivation, the higher the individual is motivated. One of the key concepts of the STD is the distinguishing of three categories of motivation: amotivationintrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation:

1. Amotivation: this is defined as the lack of motivation to engage in certain behavior. So a person does nothing at all in this specific behavior.

2. Intrinsic motivation is defined as engaging in behavior because of inherent satisfaction (e.g., exercise enjoyment and fun).

3. Four types of regulation define extrinsic motivation:

a. External regulated behavior is performed because of possible rewards or to avoid punishment.

b. Individuals engage in introjected regulated behavior because of inside pressure (e.g., feeling guilty when not going to the gym).

c. Persons guided by identified regulation engage in certain behavior because the outcome of the behavior is of significant importance to them (e.g., exercising because it is healthy and will improve appearance).

d. Integrated regulation reflects full assimilation of the regulations into the self (e.g., individual exercises because he wants to improve his health). They are included in the individual’s other values and needs.

Figure 1: SDT-continuum.


Research show some important conclusions based on SDT: having more intrinsic participation goals associated with exercise leads to greater exercise participation. And perceived competence for exercise is positively related to adaptive exercise behavioral outcomes. Its also suggested that intrinsic motivation and identified regulation play an important role when it comes to exercise adherence in fitness clubs, because activities are not always inherently enjoyable, but people are aware of the importance of the outcome. Intrinsic motivation helps focusing on short-term goals and enjoyment, whereas identified regulation helps focusing on long-term goals. In the practical situation of fitness clubs, motivation can be improved my giving members multiple options to exercise, short term goals which are challenging but achievable and create social support by an exercise buddy, instructor or family and friends.