Many people use exercise as an escape from reality. After a stressful day at work it may feel good to put on your running shoes, get into a good flow and just forget about the time and place. However not all forms of exercise are good for escaping from reality.
Frode Stenseng, professor at Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NTNU, asked 207 active people to fill out a questionnaire that measures different types of motivation for exercise. He found that a large majority shared similarities of which could be divided into two groups. Some had a healthy motivation for training and others unhealthy. Those who used exercise as an escape from reality in a healthy manner identified exercise as a way to plan and control their emotions and demonstrated a less impulsive manner. The individuals generally scored high on the researchers' scale for good quality of life. On the other hand, the second group used a workout as a way to hide from reality. They did so to displace feelings and to forget negative influences and problems in everyday life. On the contrary these individuals were not as good at planning or having control of their feelings in addition to being more impulsive.
When you become absorbed in an activity, there is a lot of talk about getting in the "flow", which is usually a positive state. But it turned out that the perception of feeling post exercise differentiated between the two groups. The former group experienced training as a boost in relation to good feelings and they achieved a more positive perception by being active. The second group however, experienced a more negative perception after exercise. Researchers suggested that this negative perception is due to the feeling of guilt and shame of spending too much time training instead of solving the problems in their life. Stenseng suggest that coaches can advantageously use this knowledge, it can be useful to be aware of what an individual’s motive to train is in order to support them in taking only the best from their training sessions.
Exercise is a medicine therefore we have to find the appropriate dose!
Stenseng, F., & Phelps, J. M. Passion for a sport activity, escapism, and affective outcomes: Exploring a mediation model. Scandinavian Psychologist, 3, e2, 2016