Health Care Analysis

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 107–121 | Cite as

Conceptions of Well-Being in Psychology and Exercise Psychology Research: A Philosophical Critique

  • Andrew Bloodworth
  • Mike McNamee
Original Article


The potential of physical activity to improve our health has been the subject of extensive research [38]. The relationship between physical activity and well-being has prompted substantial interest from exercise psychologists in particular [3], and it seems, is generating increasing interest outside the academic community in healthcare policy and practice inter alia through GP referrals for exercise. Researchers in the field have benefited from a rich tradition within psychology that investigates subjective well-being and its antecedents [7]. We argue that the exercise and health psychology research suffers from this intellectual ancestry specifically in the form of two significant conceptual limitations. First, short-term pleasure and enjoyment which are associated with exercise induced well-being may mask activities that are doing us no good or even harm us [18]. Second, focusing on pleasure entails unacceptable methodological reductionism which undermines the validity of such research by excluding other ways in which our well-being may be enhanced in non-hedonistic terms.


Physical activity Philosophy Subjective well-being 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Health Science, Centre for Philosophy, Humanities and Law in HealthcareUniversity of Wales SwanseaSwanseaUK

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