Motivation States for Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior: Desire, Urge, Wanting, and Craving

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Frontiers in Psychology



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To better explain daily fluctuations in physical activity and sedentary behavior, investigations of motivation are turning from social cognitive frameworks to those centered on affect, emotion and automaticity, such as the Affect and Health Behavior Framework (AHBF), Integrated Framework and Affective-Reflective Theory (ART). This shift has necessitated: (a) re-examination of older theories and their constructs, such as drives, needs and tensions and (b) an inspection of competing theories from other fields that also attempt to explain dynamic changes in health behaviors. The Dynamical Model of Desire, Elaborated Intrusion Theory and others commonly share with AHBF the idea that human behavior is driven strongly by desires and/or the similar concepts of wants, urges, and cravings. These affectively-charged motivation states (ACMS) change quickly and may better explain physical activity behavior from one moment to the next. Desires for movement predominantly derive from negative but also positive reinforcement. Data from clinical populations with movement dysfunction or psychiatric disorders provides further evidence of these drivers of movement. Those with Restless Legs Syndrome, akathisia, tic disorders and exercise dependence all report strong urges to move and relief when it is accomplished. Motor control research has identified centers of the brain responsible for wants and urges for muscular movement. Models elaborated herein differentiate between wants, desires, urges and cravings. The WANT model (Wants and Aversions for Neuromuscular Tasks) conceptualizes desires for movement and rest as varying by magnitude, approach or avoidance-orientation (wants versus aversions) and as occupying independent dimensions instead of opposite ends of the same axis. For instance, one hypothetically might be in a state of both high desire for movement and rest simultaneously. Variations in motivation states to move and rest may also be associated with various stress states, like freezing or fight and flight. The first validated instrument to measure feelings of desire/want for movement and rest, the CRAVE Scale (Cravings for Rest and Volitional Energy Expenditure) is already shedding light on the nature of these states. With these advances in theory, conceptual modeling and instrumentation, future investigations may explore the effects of desires and urges for movement and sedentary behavior in earnest.

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conceptual analysis, desire, exercise, motivation, motivation states, physical activity, sedentary activity, urge for movement


Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KNPE)