Corporate Wellness | By | 06/04/18 | 3 Minute Read

3 Examples of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation in Corporate Wellness Programs

Making healthy habits stick can be tricky for many people, depending on where they are in their health journey. But one thing remains the same for everyone, no matter the situation: there is always a need for motivation to support any change. It’s the key to helping people initiate and maintain behavior change, and ultimately to achieve long-standing health goals. And it’s no secret that healthy employees make for more productive employees, which is why it’s important for you, as an employer, to understand what makes healthy habits stick.

What exactly is motivation? Ken Resnicow, PhD, Professor of Health Behavior & Health Education at the University of Michigan relates motivation to energy. It is this energy that drives people to accomplish their personal goals—and is a person’s “why” for initiating change or doing something. To elaborate, there are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation refers to the spontaneous autonomous tendency to seek out new challenges based on what is inherently desirable for an individual. Some studies have found that the more intrinsically motivated a person is, the more likely their behavior change will be long-lasting.

Here are 3 motivational messaging examples to inspire your intrinsically motivated employees in a corporate wellness program:

Example 1

    • : You ran a half-marathon recently—you rock! Perhaps you could help organize a company sponsored 5k in the coming months.

Example 2: You’ve taken 2 workout classes this week. How about taking 3 more to make it 5 for 5?

Example 3: You have 7,000 steps; last week you averaged 5,000. How might you feel about taking it to the next level? Consider aiming for 8,500 steps with a quick jog after work!

Notice how the above examples acknowledge the message recipient’s inherent interest and progress in fitness, and then provide the call-to-action for that recipient to do more.

On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is when a person’s motivation is driven by external factors such as rewards, praise, pressure, or even guilt. This tends to be less effective in driving long-lasting behavior change, and can lead to poor behavior outcomes since the motivation is not tied to internal factors.

Check out these 3 messaging examples to inspire individuals who are more extrinsically motivated in a corporate wellness program:

Example 1

    • : Something seems different this week. What helped you last week when you had 5,000 steps compared to your peers with 2,000 steps?

Example 2: It’s understandable to find exercise intimidating, especially if there’s risk for injury. But you also know if you became more active, you could become less injury-prone. How might you feel if you started exercising, slowly but surely?

Example 3: You’re committed to getting more active, but are having a tough time getting started. But you know that if you got more into fitness, you could lower your cholesterol levels. What do you think about trying one of the yoga classes held in the office next week?

In the above examples, the commonality is that the messaging reflects the need to better understand what’s driving the message recipient. As you think about motivation and how it relates to your wellness program, it’s important to acknowledge that the above examples vary in what kind of person they are tailored to—motivating your employees is not a “one-size-fits-all” kind of approach. In addition to focusing on whether they are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated, remember to always first find what is most important to someone, and then tailor your message accordingly.

This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.

FEATURED whitepaper

Learn more

Interested in finding out what can drive sustained change in healthy behaviors? Read our white paper “The Truth About Motivation and What Makes Health Habits Stick.”




Learn how wearable technology is changing the game when it comes to mental health care. https://t.co/v8nxf2UgXB

Getting employees engaged with their health benefits is not always an easy task, but our partners @FitbitHealth & @Accenture have ideas about how wearables can boost engagement: https://t.co/Dj03ARFwtX