Motivation and physical activity in individuals with severe mental illness


Place: Aud A. Prøveforelesning: Health and Lifestyle: A matter of motivation?

Formal title

Physical Activity and Mental Health – Health Promotion and Motivation among People with Severe Mental Illness


The main aim of this project was to increase the knowledge about motivation for physical activity among individuals with severe mental illness.


The project has three parts: The first part provide an overview of the existing research on motivation for physical activity of individuals with severe mental illness. In part 2 current limitations in the literature was addressed by two cross-sectional studies. This was done by purposeful choice of samples (participants recruited from one particular municipality [n=106] and from a public health network [n=88]), employing a theoretical framework, examining inter- and intra-individual factors influencing motivation, and including objective assessment of physical activity. The third part examined the feasibility of increasing physical activity level among inpatients with severe mental illness through implementing a short educational intervention among mental health staff.


Results from part 1 showed that there is increasing interest for examining motivation for physical activity in individuals with SMI, but the current body of research is still relatively small. Results from 19 cross-sectional studies indicated that there was a positive association between theory-based motivational constructs and physical activity. However, results from 10 intervention studies were equivocal with respect to change in motivational constructs and only in one trial was the main aim enhancing motivation for physical activity. The two studies in part 2 were based on self-determination theory. Results showed that need support and need satisfaction were positively associated with autonomous motivation. Physical activity was positively associated with the more autonomous forms of motivation and perceived competence while it was unrelated or negatively associated with the more controlled forms of motivation and amotivation. Together, this provide support for using SDT as a theoretical framework to understand physical activity behaviour in individuals with SMI. Findings also suggest that integrated regulation is positively associated with physical activity even when controlling for clinical variables and that it is not only the amount of physical activity that is important for health related quality of life, it is also the experience during physical activity. Finally, the municipality sample displayed low physical activity engagement, especially activity with moderate or vigorous intensity, but over 90% wanted to be more physically active. The majority of network participants were physically active on a regular basis. Results from part 3 suggested that the intervention was insufficient in order to produce meaningful change in physical activity pattern among inpatients. Likewise, there seemed to be no change in motivation and self-efficacy for promoting physical activity

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