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The effects of mental simulation on attitudes and motivations towards exercise

Boulby, Adam


Adam Boulby


The World Health Organisation (WHO; 2018a) suggests that regular exercise may help to prevent diseases such as, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. Currently, it is estimated that inactivity costs the National Health Service (NHS) £7.4 billion each year (Public Health England, 2019a). Therefore, interventions need to be developed to help inactive individuals to become more physically active. This study looked at the effects of different mental simulation tasks as a method to improve both exercise attitudes and motivations in non-exercisers. It investigated whether positive exercise mental simulations could improve both exercise attitudes and motivations, compared to the positive or neutral simulation tasks. Fifty-six participants that identified as non-exercisers were recruited in the two-part study. The first part of the study, participants were required to answer a range of different questionnaires asking them about their behaviour, attitudes, and motivations towards exercise and studying, and general optimism. Participants returned the next day, where they completed one of the three simulation tasks (neutral, positive, or positive exercise), before repeating the questionnaires, they completed in the first part of the study. The results showed that for autonomous regulation there was a main effect of time, and a simulation task x time interaction. There was also a main effect of simulation task, and time for amotivation. The results are discussed in the context of the implications of these findings. This study found that a single mental simulation session, did not improve exercise attitudes, motivations, nor general optimism in non-exercisers. However, it may be feasible that repeated mental simulations are more effective when the individual has been presented with them over a longer duration (e.g. one- week, two- weeks, or four- weeks). Future research needs to investigate the duration of which repeated mental simulations interventions may improve exercise attitudes and motivations in non-exercisers.


Boulby, A. (2019). The effects of mental simulation on attitudes and motivations towards exercise. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jun 14, 2021
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Psychology
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Psychology, The University of Hull
Award Date Sep 1, 2019


Thesis (1.5 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2019 Boulby, Adam. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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