How Competitiveness Mediates the Link Between Reward and Motivation for Exercising Intensely

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Incentives are crucial to making challenges seem doable and fun. These incentives are easy to measure when they are external and in the case of explicitly linked rewards for sedentary gaming sessions. The missing link was a connection between the enjoyment of sedentary games and their associated reward features after playing with the use of these games to boost associations of rewards with the challenge of exercising (Smeddinck, Herrlich, Wang, Zhang, & Malaka, 2019).

A common observation for most people will be that buying a new gadget acts as an incentive to use it often in what people may refer to as a shiny new toy effect. The effect is likely the same one explored by Smeddink et al. (2019), where the rewards in a game act as a trojan horse to exercising. The psychological manipulation is not apparent to many people; however, the habits that form due to the reward reinforcement are visible, and that is why they work hard and play hard persuasion appears.

The scientific explanation to the link between people preferring to exercise for longer and intensely when they have reward linked gaming experience does not explain whether it would be different for people to learn of the rewards earlier or after the event. Nonetheless, the findings align best with personal observations outside the scientific realm. A probable limitation based on personal views is that the context of gaming will matter. If people already had an intrinsic motivation to exercise, then the link to gaming rewards will help. Otherwise, the lack of intrinsic motivation might cause them not to consider exercising in the first place.

The idea of competing with others can be an intrinsic motivator leading people to exercise (Mschandorf, 2018). After all, exercising is either to improve fitness as a health aspect or fitness as an athletic feature. The “us versus them” thinking makes it possible for people to quantify a reward and determine its motivating value, which makes it worthy or unworthy.

A post by Mehmspurplee359 (2019) argues correctly in saying the excitement of competition takes people’s concern away from the stressful relations of performance. This observation might explain why a person would see no problem with increasing intensity of exercising when there is an explicit link to a sedentary game reward after the exercise. The idea of competition and winning appears to justify continuous action, and that would be the observed conclusion in the Smeddink et al. (2019) article. The authors did not go on to explore conditions that might be triggering the observation outside the experimental setting. Understanding the way individuals choose to compete amongst each other is easy, given that their actions are external and visible (Mehmspurplee359, 2019). However, intrinsic motivators have more to do with inherent images of what it means to compete.

For some people, competition is a healthy way of being part of a social group to contribute and work toward total cooperation for success. In other situations, competition is a win-or-lose scenario. People can refuse to compete, or they may lack the intrinsic motivation to try because they are afraid of losing. This idea brings forth the argument that the intrinsic motivation to exercise would be a salient determinant to whether someone pays attention to rewards after exercising. The fear of losing in a competitive setting can be a demotivator to any participation. An expectation of winning would make it possible for people to play hard, hoping to get improved results.


Mehmspurplee359. (2019, July 21). The competitive individual: Motivation to develop or deceive? Mschandorf. Retrieved from,

Mschandorf. (2018, September 8). Competition: It’s no game. Mschandorf. Retrieved from

Smeddinck, J. D., Herrlich, M., Wang, X., Zhang, G., & Malaka, R. (2019). Work hard, play hard: How linking rewards in games to prior exercise performance improves motivation and exercise intensity. Entertainment Computing, 29, 20–30.

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