Background: Despite evidence that outcomes are highly valued when they are expected sooner rather than further into the future (Ainslie, 1975), limited research effort has been devoted to understanding the role of exercise outcome proximity. The purpose of this study was to examine how temporal proximity to positive outcomes influences exercisers' intrinsic motivation. We expected that focusing people on temporally proximal exercise outcomes would increase intrinsic motivation, especially among low-frequency exercisers. Methods: This online experimental study was completed by 135 community exercisers (Mage=31.11, SD=10.29; 62% female) who reported an average of 4.86 exercise bouts per week (SD=2.12). Participants were randomly assigned to a condition that primed temporally proximal positive exercise outcomes (i.e. experienced during or directly following an exercise bout) or temporally distal outcomes (i.e. experienced after days, months, or years of regular exercise). Participants then reported perceptions of behavioral regulation in exercise. Results: As expected, the proximal exercise outcome condition elicited increased intrinsic regulation among those participants who exercised less frequently (i.e. 1 SD below the mean). Conclusions: This study reveals the importance of considering proximity as an important dimension of exercise outcomes-particularly when promoting intrinsic motivation among relatively infrequent exercisers.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Applied Psychology