Studying individuals’ motivation to engage in physical activity raises the question of whether physical activity is a consumption good (enjoyment) or an investment good (a health investment). The aims of the study were: (i) What kind of motivational background is it possible to identify for different forms of physical activity among adults, and (ii) Is there an association between different motivational factors and the form and amount of physical activity among adults. A mixed methods approach was applied using interviews (n = 20) and a questionnaire (n = 156). The qualitative data was analysed using content analysis. The quantitative data were analysed using factor and regression analysis. Among the interviewees, different types of motivation were found: ‘enjoyment’, ‘health reasons’ and ‘mixed motivations’, and from the quantitative data: (i) mixed motivation, a combination of enjoyment and investment, (ii) dislike of physical activity, (iii) social, (iv) goal focused, (v) appearance focused and (vi) exercising only within the comfort zone. Mixed-motivational background, with both enjoyment and investment in health, increased weekly physical activity hours significantly (β = 1.733; p = 0.001). Personal appearance-based motivation increased weekly muscle training (β = 0.540; p = 0.000) and brisk physical activity hours (β = 0651; p = 0.014). Conducting such physical activity which provides enjoyment during the performance of the activity, increased weekly balance-focused exercise hours (β = 0.224; p = 0.034). People have different kind of motivational backgrounds for engaging in physical activity. Mixed motivational background, including enjoyment and investment in health, yielded more physical activity in hours than if the person had only one of these motivations.

Pairing physical activity with pleasant associations could be a direction for effective physical activity promotion. It is important to enable people to test different physical activity types in order to find the type of physical activity which gives them most joy and pleasure. If one is conducting physical activity purely as an investment in health, the amount of activity is less than when the activity is combined with enjoyment. Getting pleasure from physical activity should be the main target when we try to increase physical activity among people who have previously not enjoyed physical activity.

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