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BMC Psychiatry. 2017 Nov 6;17(1):359. doi: 10.1186/s12888-017-1528-3.

Associations between physical activity and motivation, competence, functioning, and apathy in inhabitants with mental illness from a rural municipality: a cross-sectional study.

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Department of Coaching and Psychology, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway.
Department of Coaching and Psychology, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway.
School of Business and Social Sciences, University College of Southeast Norway, Hønefoss, Norway.
Innlandet Hospital Trust, Department for Acute Psychiatry and Psychosis, Reinsvoll, Division of Psychiatry, Vestre Toten, Norway.
Research & Development Department, Division of Mental Health Services, Akershus University Hospital, Lørenskog, Norway.
Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.



There is increasing evidence for physical activity (PA) having a positive impact on physical and mental health as well as illness symptoms in individuals with severe mental illness (SMI). However, individuals with SMI experience several barriers that makes it difficult to take advantage of the benefits associated with PA. One barrier consistently reported to impede PA is motivational issues. Thus, the main aim of the present study was to examine associations between PA and motivation for PA, perceived competence for PA, functioning, apathy, and demographic variables among individuals with SMI. This was conducted within a larger study aiming at including all inhabitants with SMI in one particular small, rural municipality.


A total of 106 participants were recruited to the study. Questionnaire-based interviews conducted by two mental health nurses assessed self-reported PA, motivation and competence for PA, functioning, and apathy. Additionally, 71 participants accepted to wear an accelerometer-equipped wristwatch yielding an objective assessment of PA.


The participants engaged in little PA. However, they did not lack motivation, as over 90% stated that they would like to be more active, and participants across PA level displayed high scores of a motivation reflecting that they valued the benefits of PA. Results showed that higher self-reported PA level was associated with higher levels of integrated regulated motivation and perceived competence for PA while it was unrelated to functioning and apathy. In the subpopulation with objectively measured PA, integrated regulated motivation for PA remained significantly associated with PA level, whereas poor scores on functioning lowered the odds ratio for higher PA level.


The results show that PA specific motivation is associated with PA even when controlling for functioning and apathy. This highlight the importance of facilitating context specific motivation (i.e., motivation for PA) and that health care practitioners should emphasise helping people with SMI develop more intrinsic forms of motivation.


Apathy; Competence; Functioning; Mental illness; Motivation; Physical activity

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