Psychology (B.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Shauna W. Joye


Research shows mental and physical health are interdependent. We sought to test various methods of external motivation to effect change in the physical performance and mental health of students enrolled in walking classes. We hypothesized that if there was a correlation between physical exercise and mental health and we could motivate individuals to exercise, then that motivation would in turn result in better mental health. Participants, 19 in the pilot and 320 in the main study, were randomly assigned into three groups to receive messages prior to conducting physical activity: those who received neutral messages about exercise, those who received positive affirmations designed to promote self-worth and accomplishment, and those who received more military-type messages intended to illicit resistance to the messages and draw out a desire to overcome. We found support for both a correlational relationship between physical exercise and mental health as well as some support that women reported feeling more motivated by positive affirmations than military-type messages. However, we did not find that type of message affected either actual amount of time spent working out or mental health. Although this study provides preliminary support for how to make people feel motivated, more research is needed to make the connection between motivation to exercise and actual follow-through.