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Health Care Anal. 2007 Jun;15(2):107-21.

Conceptions of well-being in psychology and exercise psychology research: a philosophical critique.

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School of Health Science, Centre for Philosophy, Humanities and Law in Healthcare, University of Wales Swansea, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK.


The potential of physical activity to improve our health has been the subject of extensive research [38]. The relationship between physical activity and well-being has prompted substantial interest from exercise psychologists in particular [3], and it seems, is generating increasing interest outside the academic community in healthcare policy and practice inter alia through GP referrals for exercise. Researchers in the field have benefited from a rich tradition within psychology that investigates subjective well-being and its antecedents [7]. We argue that the exercise and health psychology research suffers from this intellectual ancestry specifically in the form of two significant conceptual limitations. First, short-term pleasure and enjoyment which are associated with exercise induced well-being may mask activities that are doing us no good or even harm us [18]. Second, focusing on pleasure entails unacceptable methodological reductionism which undermines the validity of such research by excluding other ways in which our well-being may be enhanced in non-hedonistic terms.

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