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Is the Will to Workout Genetic?

Is the Will to Workout Genetic?

The influence genetics has on motivation is a key component to client results. We know all clients need customized programs to achieve progress. Yet, keeping clients committed to an exercise program they enjoy can be challenging. 

Discovering a client's genetic potential to be intrinsically or extrinsically motivated will help you tailor the best program for them. Once you understand the essentials of motivation and how genetics impact intrinsic motivation, you can take your programming to a whole new level.

Theory of Motivation

A client’s genes determine their behavior, emotion, and learning abilities. Some clients tolerate happiness in certain activities and not so much in others. The theory of motivation explains the differences in what keeps an individual happy and motivated: 

  1. Intrinsic motivation – behavior driven by internal rewards
  2. Extrinsic motivation – behavior driven by external rewards

Intrinsically motivated clients simply enjoy doing activities for nothing in return. These types of people do not need to gain something externally to complete an activity. Learning and self-satisfaction are enough for them.

On the other hand, when a client is extrinsically motivated, they look for a reward to participate in the activity. This person wants to gain more than just inner self-satisfaction. This includes receiving materialistic items like money or prizes. Their genes tell you it takes more than just learning to motivate them. 

What is Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation creates a desire to see personal capabilities and progression. This type of client seeks positive learning and emotion in return for the activity they are performing.

The autonomy they gain in their fitness fuels their positive desire and learning behavior. Motivators for them are solely to have control over what they do. Goals stem from satisfying psychological needs rather than external recognition.

Motivation also plays a huge role in the learning abilities of students

The BDNF Gene 

This gene can be a high indicator for a person’s intrinsic motivation to exercise. Intrinsically motivated clients will score a “more likely” genotype. They do not need any external reward to keep going. This client will show through their behavior that they achieve pleasure just from performing a workout.

Clients that score the “less likely” genotype tend to deter easily from their program when life gets busy. They benefit from small amounts of extrinsic motivation. Encouragement through rewards such as money, recognition, or prizes may help this client stay motivated.

How Do You Create Intrinsic Motivation?

Rewards drive extrinsic motivation. The process to achieve something drives intrinsic motivation.

  1. Instructive Feedback: Give clients something to work towards that internally drives them to be better.
  2. Set Big Goals: Once a client achieves a goal, set another one. Challenge is a major component of intrinsic motivation.
  3. Strategize: The steps a client needs to take to accomplish their goals will push them to be a go-getter.

When a reward gives a client more control over their results, it can create a higher form of motivation. As the self-determination theory states, people are more likely to engage in a behavior if they feel confident they can be successful in that activity.  

Intrinsic Motivation vs Extrinsic Motivation

Viewed as the more optimal type, intrinsic motivation has proven to deliver a more meaningful approach to work. The person cares more about the act they are performing when their determination comes from within. Whereas an extrinsically motivated person relies on something else to encourage them (e.g., money, praise).

Intrinsic motivation impacts learning based on the enjoyment level that person experiences. Compare this to an individual who is only doing something for a better grade or money, for example. The latter does not care as much to retain the information because of their initial desire to pass the test or win the prize.

This same principle applies to your client’s program. When motivated to improve, your client gains autonomy in their fitness. They have a better chance of learning and adapting to that lifestyle.

When a client just wants to look good, they do not truly care about the process of getting there. The chance that they focus on making it a lifestyle is much less. They do not focus on factors like technique or exercise performance.

Intrinsic motivation builds internal motivators. It increases the desire to learn and build behavior patterns for success. Extrinsic motivation can help jump-start a client to complete an activity. Although it is more optimal to have feelings towards personal improvement then it is to have to be incentivized. 

Extrinsic motivation can be detrimental by building bad behavior traits. It can create habits in clients where they rely only on rewards. It is important to encourage them to perform activities for their internal benefit.

Use these types of motivational interviewing questions to help you determine a client’s source of motivation.

How Environment Can Influence Intrinsic Motivation

Naturally driven clients create their own motivation. Whereas your other clients rely on external motivators to help them accomplish a task. These clients can benefit from curiosity, challenge, and control. These behavioral factors help promote better learning.

Curiosity, challenge, and control can help shift an extrinsic person’s learning and behavior abilities to be more intrinsic. These motivators help build autonomy without the reward-driven environment taking over.

To create a more intrinsic environment, consider encouraging your client to train with a friend. Or, recommend they join groups with like-minded people to keep them in a motivational environment. This helps hold them more accountable for their goals. This provides some level of extrinsic behavior without it becoming detrimental.

Clients with “more likely” genotypes experience fewer fluctuations between losing and gaining motivation. Behavior is steady and the momentum to exercise lasts longer, even when presented with training obstacles.

These clients are so intrinsically motivated that if an extrinsic reward is introduced, they will actually lose motivation. This is the over-justification effect. 

It is important to know if your clients are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated to avoid demotivating a client. Promote intrinsic motivation by implementing motivational assessment tools

Know that previous life experiences contribute to behavior change in clients. Traumatic events influence positive and negative behavior patterns. They can create uncertainty or fear in a person's ability to pursue certain activities. Conducting assessments more than once is beneficial to cognitive psychology. 

How Genetics Influence Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is embedded in the genetic makeup of your client. People with the BDNF gene tend to want to exercise longer. If a client is not genetically predominant in this genetic makeup, they would rather stop exercising the second they get the chance. Most clients will score the “more likely” genotype for intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation drives a person to perform exercise because they enjoy it. You can use it to predict enhanced learning, performance, creativity, optimal development, and psychological wellness.

The way clients behave, learn, and interact with other human beings tells us a lot about their social psychology. And their genetic makeup influences that social psychology. 

Adults can develop intrinsic motivation much easier because they can relate to past experiences. They have encountered more learning experiences and understand the value of what they are working towards. Ultimate satisfaction in past interactions creates a better learning atmosphere. 

Want to learn more about how genetics can impact a client’s fitness program? Check out ISSA’s DNA-Based Fitness Coach course.