If you’re struggling to maintain a consistent exercise routine, it could be due to a variety of internal factors. The human body is incredibly complex and influenced by a multitude of factors.
Today, we’re going to explore which internal influences most affect physical activity and discover the factors impacting your exercise routine. By understanding these factors, you’ll gain insight into what’s driving your behavior and unlock strategies for overcoming any obstacles that stand in your way.
We all know how important it is to stay active, but did you ever stop to consider why some people seem to find it easier than others? While there are certainly external factors that can impact our physical activity levels, it’s often the internal ones that hold us back.
In this article, we’ll delve into the various ways our bodies and minds influence our willingness and ability to engage in physical activity. From biological factors like age and hormones to psychological barriers like motivation and self-efficacy, we’ll cover it all.
“The problem isn’t knowing what to do, it’s doing what you know.”
If you’ve been struggling to establish an exercise habit or just want to better understand how your body works, keep reading! We promise you’ll walk away with valuable insights that will help you make positive changes for years to come.
The human body is a complex system, and there are numerous internal factors that can influence physical activity. Biological factors such as genetic predisposition and neurobiological abnormalities are two main factors that play a crucial role in determining an individual’s propensity for physical activity.
A person’s genes significantly impact their inclination towards physical activity or lack thereof. Studies have shown that approximately 50% of the variability in physical activity among individuals can be attributed to genetic factors (1). Individuals with specific variations in their DNA may be more prone to enjoy sports, regular exercise, or endurance-based activities like running or cycling.
This doesn’t imply that people who do not inherit these “exercise” genes cannot be physically active or become excellent athletes. Research suggests that even those without a favorable gene variant can still improve fitness levels through structured training programs and lifestyle modifications (2).
Brain function plays a vital role in regulating physical activity and motivation. When neurobiological imbalances occur, one might experience reduced energy levels, lethargy, or even depression – all of which could impact physical activity negatively.
One study found that extreme exhaustion during exercise was directly linked with a particular deficiency of dopamine release in the basal ganglia region of the brain (3). Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that regulates reward, motivation, and addiction, so having irregular levels may significantly contribute to difficulties in initiating or maintaining physical activity routines.
- Add variety to your workout routine by incorporating new exercises, changing locations, or trying different classes
- Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who encourage you to stay active
- Break your exercise session into shorter bouts instead of completing one lengthy session
While there are numerous internal factors that affect physical activity levels, genetic predisposition and neurobiological abnormalities play particularly essential roles. These may seem daunting to overcome initially; however, remember that all is not lost with the proper guidance, support system, and hard work.
“Genetics represents a powerful driver of individual differences in exercise physiology and adaptation to training.” – Claire J. Steves / King’s College London
“Some people lack certain genes for muscle recovery or endurance capacity but compensate through diligence and environment.” – Lawrence W. Bassett Jr. / University of Mississippi Medical Center
- (1) Bouchard, C. (2012). Gene-environment interactions in the etiology of obesity: defining the fundamentals. Journal of Personalized Medicine 2(3), 97-104.
- (2) Ross R., Goodpaster BH, Koch LG, et al. Precision Exercise Medicine: Understanding Exercise Response Variability. Br J Sports Med. 2019 Apr;53(7):1141–1153. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2018-100036
- (3) Sutoo D., Akiyama K. Regulation of brain function by exercise. Neurobiology of Disease 2003;13(1):1-14. doi:10.1016/s0969-9961(03)00022-4
The mind is a powerful thing that can either spur us on or hold us back. Our thoughts, emotions, and attitudes towards physical activity play a significant role in our engagement levels. Psychological factors are one of the most dominant internal influences that affect physical activity participation.
Cognitive distortions refer to irrational thinking patterns that lead to negative feelings, beliefs, and behaviors. These distorted thoughts impact an individual’s ability to engage in regular physical activity. For instance, individuals who hold perfectionistic tendencies might avoid engaging in physical exercise because they believe they cannot perform perfectly. In such cases, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques are useful in targeting and correcting these thought patterns.
Moreover, catastrophizing is another cognitive distortion characterized by the tendency to blow situations out of proportion. A person with this mindset may skip their workout routine due to the belief that it might be too strenuous and will cause them harm. CBT techniques help unravel these myths and educate people to adapt more rational thinking regarding health-promoting activities like regular workouts.
Emotions play a crucial role in determining whether we undertake physical activity actively or not at all. Emotional dysregulation refers to an inability to sustain appropriate emotional responses based on racing thoughts. When a person encounters stressful situations, negative emotions like anxiety, depression, and anger disrupt motivation for physical activity. Such sentiments elicit avoidance coping mechanisms leading to non-participation from previously enjoyed activities.
A study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine established that reducing stress was essential in improving physical activity levels among women living in low-income areas (Rosenberg et al., 2016). It became clear that when individuals learn effective strategies for managing their negative emotions, they become more motivated to undertake physical activities.
The above two psychological factors are just a small portion of what internal influences might dampen our motivation towards physical activity. Making improvements in these areas takes time and effort, not forgetting help from professionals. With the right tools and mindset, anyone can overcome their negative emotions and cognitive distortions for increased wellness benefits with physical activity participation.
Social isolation is a major sociocultural factor that affects physical activity in individuals. A lack of social interaction can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression, which may cause an individual to become less active physically.
Studies have shown that people who are socially isolated or cut off from the world around them tend to engage in low levels of physical activity compared to those with active social connections. Additionally, social support provided by friends and family can help encourage someone to adopt healthy behaviors such as exercising regularly.
“Few things are more essential to our well-being than a sense of belonging – to know we are loved and valued by others just as we are.” -Brene Brown
In order to combat social isolation as a barrier to physical activity, it’s important for individuals to seek out ways to connect with others and build their social networks. This might involve joining a fitness class or sports team, volunteering, or even participating in online communities focused on health and wellness.
Cultural stigmas also play a significant role in determining whether an individual engages in physical activity or not. For some cultures, physical activity may be perceived as ‘unladylike’ or ‘unmanly’. The pressure to conform to cultural expectations can prevent people from engaging in activities they enjoy, simply because it goes against societal norms.
In certain societies, there may be a belief among elders that seniors should avoid exercise entirely. Such beliefs can retrenchment of body movements resulting in decreased mobility.
“Culture does not make people. They make themselves.” – Saidiya Hartman
To overcome cultural stigmas, individuals can focus on creating positive influences within their communities. Encouraging friends and family members to join in physical activities, or starting groups that celebrate the importance of exercise can be helpful strategies.
Cultural stigmas surrounding physical activity can lead to discouragement among certain populations. However, promoting inclusive, supportive environments that encourage healthy hobbies is a great way to influence positive habits and create lasting impact on an individual’s engagement with exercise.
When it comes to physical activity, environmental factors play a significant role in determining the level of participation. Among all the internal influences that affect physical activity, the environmental factor has a notable impact on human behavior.
Adverse Childhood Experiences
A study conducted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) contribute significantly to lower levels of physical activity among adults. ACEs may include abuse, neglect, or parental divorce/separation. Children that experience such situations tend to develop poor mental health outcomes and are less likely to engage in physical activity as they grow up. This can lead them towards an unhealthy lifestyle and chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Individuals who experience trauma also have higher cortisol levels that reduce serotonin production. Serotonin helps regulate mood and social behavior which makes it difficult for those individuals with ACEs to feel positive about their environment. These negative feelings often translate into sedentary behavior and low physical activity levels.
Access to Lethal Means
In addition, access to lethal means is another significant environmental factor influencing physical activity levels. A study conducted by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that people living in high-gun areas were 7% less physically active than people living in low-gun areas. Access to firearms might exacerbate fear, anxiety, and stress in some of these neighborhoods; thereby reducing physical activity. Since firearms provide an easy outlet for stress relief mechanism among depressed individuals, its availability may further lead to increased sedentary behaviors among individuals already dealing with depression.
The above-listed research suggests that access to lethal means should be restricted in communities where guns contribute to insecurity and trigger fear among residents. It’ll help increase physical activity and promote a healthier lifestyle across those areas. In conclusion, adverse childhood experiences and access to lethal means are significant environmental factors that affect an individual’s ability to engage in physical activity. By assessing these environmental factors’ impact, it may be possible for public health officials and policymakers to create interventions aimed at promoting healthy behavior.
In order to understand which internal influence most affects physical activity, it is important to examine personal factors that impact behavior. Two significant factors are prior suicide attempts and substance use disorders.
Prior Suicide Attempts
People who have attempted suicide in the past may be less likely to engage in physical activity due to a variety of reasons including lack of energy, motivation, or self-esteem. They may also be discouraged from participating in certain activities if they feel physically limited as a result of their attempt. Additionally, people with a history of suicidal thoughts or behaviors may struggle with depression or anxiety, making it difficult to maintain a regular exercise routine.
“There is a strong relationship between mental health difficulties and lower levels of physical activity, and suicide risk is associated with physical inactivity.” -British Journal of Psychiatry
It is important for individuals with a history of suicide attempts to work with mental health professionals to develop coping strategies and treatment plans that include physical activity. Regular exercise has been shown to improve overall mood and psychological well-being which can help reduce the likelihood of future suicide attempts.
Substance Use Disorders
Substance use disorders can have a significant impact on physical activity patterns. Individuals struggling with addiction may prioritize drug or alcohol use over exercise or other healthy habits. Withdrawal symptoms or feelings of lethargy may also make it difficult to maintain an active lifestyle.
“Substance misuse interferes with the biological benefits of exercise, increasing negative mood states and exacerbating depressive symptomatology by decreased neurogenesis, blunted reward response, and increased stress hormones.” -Psychology of Sport and Exercise
Furthermore, some forms of substance abuse may actually increase the likelihood of injury during physical activity. For example, heavy alcohol consumption can affect coordination and balance, increasing the risk of falls or other accidents. Individuals in recovery from substance use disorders may benefit from incorporating physical activity into their treatment plan as a way to improve overall health and reduce the risk of relapse.
Personal factors such as prior suicide attempts and substance use disorders can have a significant impact on physical activity patterns. It is important for individuals struggling with these issues to work with mental health professionals and healthcare providers to develop strategies that support both physical and psychological well-being.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does motivation affect physical activity?
Motivation plays a crucial role in determining physical activity levels. People who are highly motivated are more likely to engage in regular physical activity. The type of motivation also matters
How does self-efficacy impact physical activity levels?
Self-efficacy, or the belief in one’s ability to successfully perform a specific activity, is a key determinant of physical activity levels. People with high self-efficacy are more likely to engage in physical activity and persist in the face of challenges. Enhancing self-efficacy can be achieved through setting achievable goals, providing positive feedback, and gradually increasing the difficulty and duration of activities. Supportive environments, such as social support and accessible infrastructure, can also enhance self-efficacy and promote physical activity.
How does past experience with physical activity impact future participation?
Past experiences with physical activity can significantly impact future participation. Positive experiences, such as enjoying an activity or feeling a sense of accomplishment, can increase the likelihood of future participation. Negative experiences, such as injury or failure, can decrease the likelihood of future participation. Addressing negative experiences and providing support and encouragement can help individuals overcome barriers and increase future participation. Additionally, introducing new and enjoyable activities can help promote sustained participation.
How do personal beliefs and attitudes towards physical activity affect participation?
Personal beliefs and attitudes towards physical activity significantly impact participation levels. People who perceive physical activity as enjoyable and beneficial are more likely to engage in regular activity. Conversely, people who perceive physical activity as boring or unpleasant are less likely to participate. Education, social support and positive experiences can help change beliefs and attitudes towards physical activity and promote participation. Additionally, incorporating enjoyable and varied activities can help maintain positive attitudes and increase participation levels.
How does physical health status influence participation in physical activity?
Physical health status significantly influences participation in physical activity. People with chronic health conditions or physical limitations may face barriers to participation. However, physical activity can often be adapted to accommodate different health needs and limitations. Additionally, physical activity can have significant health benefits, such as reducing the risk of chronic diseases and improving overall well-being. Supportive environments, such as accessible infrastructure and social support, can also promote participation in physical activity, regardless of health status.
Social support and social norms are important factors in promoting physical activity. People who receive social support, such as encouragement and companionship, are more likely to engage in physical activity. Additionally, social norms, such as the perception that physical activity is a desirable behavior, can also impact participation levels. Creating supportive environments, such as social groups or community programs, can promote social support and positive social norms, which in turn can promote sustained physical activity.