Physical activity and behaviour change: the role of distributed motivation

Aisling Gough, Lindsay Prior, Frank Kee, Ruth F. Hunter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
508 Downloads (Pure)


Physical inactivity levels are rising globally. In response, public health
investigators have sought to design and implement effective interventions
to raise levels of physical activity in populations, communities and
individuals. Usually, such interventions are built around theories of
behaviour change in which notions of motivation and incentivisation
loom large. Drawing on focus group evidence derived in the context of a
cluster RCT aimed at increasing levels of physical activity in the workplace,
this paper offers a critical look at the factors that seemingly
stimulate and sustain that activity. In particular, using novel methods
of data analysis we illustrate how motives and motivation – often interpreted
as a driving force ‘in’ individuals – can be more usefully seen as
distributed; as a property of systems (incorporating technologies, organisational
structures, and social interaction) rather than of persons. In our
discussion, we outline various theoretical as well as empirical grounds for
making such claims and conclude by drawing out the implications of our
work for public health policy and research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Public Health
Early online date18 Oct 2018
Publication statusEarly online date - 18 Oct 2018


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