environment, a powerful lever to move more


Ten thousand steps and more. What motivates us to go for a run rather than watch a series? How to get into, or get back into, a sporting activity in the event of illness? On paper, we know all the beneficial effects of physical activity for health, morale, etc. But, in reality, it is not that simple.

All decision making is influenced by factors like attention, mood, motivation, etc. In psychology, motivation is defined as “the set of internal and/or external forces producing the initiation, direction, intensity, persistence and cessation of behavior”can we read in the chapter “Motivation and barriers to physical activity in the chronically ill person” of Inserm’s collective expertise on physical activity in 2019.

“This motivation is based on several dimensions, according to studies in the scientific literature: that relating to the beliefs that one has on the positive and/or negative effects of physical activity, one’s ability to change one’s behavior – on the basis of what we have experienced or those around us – and that relating to behaviors and environmental influences”explains Julie Boiché, teacher-researcher at UFR Staps in Montpellier, member of the Inserm expert group.

“We play on what we call the basic needs of individuals; this is the theory of self-determination, that is, how people endorse their actions with a sense of choice rather than a sense of coercion, one of the major contemporary theories of motivation “explains Professor Fabienne d’Arripe-Longueville, director of the Staps department at the University of the Côte d’Azur.

Surround yourself with active people

“People and the social environment can be very powerful, continues Julie Boiche, whether professionals (health personnel and adapted physical activity professionals), relationships established with other practitioners, encouragement from family or friends. » It works at any age. The more you are surrounded by active people, the easier it is. A study by a team of American researchers, published on October 19 in PLOS Oneshowed that the social interactions of sedentary people with moderately active others stimulated them to move.

The material, geographical and financial contexts are also decisive. These factors interact with each other. Many studies show that the urban environment (cycle paths, footpaths, etc.) encourages physical activity. Similarly, having active breaks during working time, breaks with a sedentary lifestyle, such as establishing days without a lift by encouraging people to systematically take the stairs, makes people move more. A key element is to find an activity for which you have fun. The challenge is also the acquisition of habits, such as brushing your teeth.

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