|Panteleimon "Paddy" Ekkekakis, Ph.D.|
The circumplex model of affect serves as the template upon which the affective responses to exercise are mapped. According to the circumplex model, the affective space can be adequately defined by two orthogonal and bipolar dimensions, namely affective valence (positivity-negativity or pleasure-displeasure; see the horizontal dimension in the schematic) and activation (also referred to as arousal; see the vertical dimension in the schematic). When combined, these two dimensions divide the affective space into four meaningful quadrants: (a) pleasant high activation (e.g., excitement, energy), (b) pleasant low activation (e.g., calmness, relaxation), (c) unpleasant low activation (e.g., boredom, fatigue), and (d) unpleasant high activation (e.g., tension, distress). Because of its broad scope, balance, and unparalleled parsimony, the circumplex is a very useful investigative platform for studying the effects of various exercise stimuli on affect. Regardless of their exact nature and direction, which, in most cases, cannot be accurately predicted, affective responses to exercise can be plotted within this two-dimensional space, enabling the identification and basic description of their most salient experiential features.
|Exercise Psychology Laboratory Research Focus|
The Exercise Psychology Laboratory at Iowa State University conducts research related to affective responses to exercise. Specific topics include (a) the relationship between exercise intensity and affective responses, (b) the cognitive and physiological correlates of affective responses, (c) individual differences in preference for and tolerance of exercise intensity. The long-term aim of this research is to develop new methods for prescribing exercise that take into account not only the maximization of fitness and health benefits, but also enjoyment and the potential for continued exercise involvement over the long haul. The populations primarily involved in our research are healthy but sedentary middle-aged adults.
Take a virtual tour of the ISU Exercise Psychology Laboratory
at the 2004 ACSM in Indianapolis (mp3, 30:08)
|Main Findings and Theoretical Framework|
There is a complex relationship between the intensity of exercise and affective responses. During and for a short period following moderate-intensity exercise, most people respond positively. During exercise performed at an intensity that approximates the gas exchange ventilatory threshold, there is considerable variability from individual to individual, with some responding positively and others responding negatively. These differences can be accounted for to some degree by individual differences in preference for and tolerance of the somatic sensations associated with vigorous exercise, as well as by differences in cognitive factors, such as self-efficacy. Beyond the gas exchange ventilatory threshold, where a physiological steady-state can no longer be maintained, there is a near-universal decline in the valence of affective responses. At this level, ratings of affective valence (positivity versus negativity) are primarily correlated with physiological parameters (i.e., ventilation, blood lactate).
The guiding conceptual framework of this research is the dual-mode theory of exercise-induced affective responses. According to this theory, affective responses to exercise are jointly influenced by two coacting factors, namely cognitive factors, such as physical self-efficacy, and interoceptive (e.g., muscular or respiratory) cues that reach the affective centers of the brain via subcortical routes. The balance between these two determinants is hypothesized to shift systematically as a function of exercise intensity, with the cognitive factors being dominant at low intensities and interoceptive cues gaining salience as intensity approaches the individual's functional limits and the maintenance of a physiological steady-state becomes impossible.
On average, 50% of the people who start an exercise program drop out within the first six months. Although numerous factors may be responsible for this, one is mainly of interest to this laboratory. Most people who lack exercise experience are unable to accurately monitor and regulate the intensity of their exercise efforts. Consequently, some overestimate the intensity of exercise and, thus, choose intensities that are unlikely to confer benefits in an efficient manner. Others underestimate the intensity of exercise, overexert themselves, and experience negative affective responses or injuries. Both problems may lead to dropout. A new method for improving the self-monitoring and self-regulation of exercise intensity can be developed based on affective responses. The key is the fact that affect deteriorates in a near-universal fashion at exercise intensities that significantly exceed the gas exchange ventilatory threshold. This is also the intensity that appears to optimize the accrual of health and fitness benefits for previously sedentary individuals.
Reviews of the
At least 15 books have been published on the effects of exercise and physical activity on mental health and psychological well-being but this is the first comprehensive text to cover the range of evidence and research across a broad range on mental health dimensions in this rapidly growing field. In a mammoth task the Editor-in-Chief, Paddy Ekkekakis, has managed to pull together a group of Sub-Editors for the following sections, each with 3–5 chapters written by leading authors in the respective field:
The content provides a comprehensive synthesis of this interdisciplinary field from neuroscience to public health. The qualitative reviews in each chapter identify the current state of play through reference to the latest systematic reviews and key studies. In each section, the focus is on a critical appraisal of the strength of evidence for a causal effect, followed by chapters on the evidence for neurobiological or psychosocial mechanisms.
In summary, congratulations to everyone involved in developing this excellent and essential text for students and academics at all levels. [...] The book is particularly likely to be a must have for libraries serving a range of fields, including clinical and health psychology, psychiatry, neuroscience, behavioural and preventive medicine, gerontology, nursing, public health, primary care and sport and exercise science.
Taylor, A.H. (2013). Mental Health and Physical Activity, 6 (2), 101-102.
Ekkekakis takes us on tour of his dissection of research within the field of affect, mood, and emotion through this short, yet precise text. Akin to the bag of Mary Poppins, this book offers a simple premise; that of exploring the limitations and pitfalls of oft-cited measurement tools, yet inside we are confronted by a wealth of information, formulated into an engaging and easy-to-follow text.
From the outset we are engaged by various debates within the field and asked to acknowledge the growing problem of widely generalised findings, stemming from poorly defined and operationalised concepts. We are urged, through copious examples and comparisons, to learn from past mistakes and strive to strengthen future findings, leaving the reader to question and scrutinise their own methods and work. Ekkekakis provides help on this matter through suggestion of a three-tier decision model requiring sound, literature-driven reasoning when selecting our measuring devices, and firmly explores the benefits of doing so.
Throughout the latter half of this text, the reader may find themselves hoping that measures they have previously used are not mentioned and fairly critiqued as the writer successfully attempts to draw us away from replicating methods simply because they have been used at great lengths in the past, towards utilisation of measurements which better suit our work and support the outcomes in which we envisage.
An enthralling read from the outset, which has application far past mood, affect and emotion, and a step in the right direction to shaping better research.
Reviewed by Dean Fido, PhD student, Nottingham Trent University
Advance Praise for
"a powerful plea for a qualitative shift
in the way research is conducted. It is a wise, thoughtful, and
much needed guidebook for the transition from a prescientific
to a scientific paradigm. If researchers read this book, they
will be convinced, they will change their behavior, and their
research will advance.I'm often asked to recommend a measure
for emotion or mood, and I never have a simple answer.
Now I do: Read Ekkekakis."
"What an impressive piece of writing!
Authoritative, thought-provoking, essential reading for all
those interested in physical activity and mental health. Dr
Ekkekakis always provides insightful commentaries and critiques,
and this is no exception. It will certainly move this research
"Much has been written about the acute
effects of exercise on affect, mood and emotion, led by Paddy
Ekkekakis over the past 10 years. This has changed the precision
of measurement and understanding across the field. This book
brings together this literature like no other book, and extends
the relevance for anyone working in the field of health behaviour
"This definitive book on measurement
of affect, mood, and emotion is necessary reading for all
scientists seeking to employ self-report assessments of these
"In a clear and engaging style, this
book brings the distinctions between and measurement of the
constructs in this content area together in one place in a way
that is quite original and very much needed."
"Psychobiology of Physical
Activity" is a long-awaited contribution to
the understanding of the physiological
connection between motor movement/exercise,
mood, health, and brain functioning. It
takes the reader beyond the fragmentary
patchwork of psychobiological knowledge
of the past and presents a well-coordinated
journey through the neuroanatomy,
neurophysiology, and neurochemistry of
physical activity and the resultant health
benefits. [...] "Psychobiology of Physical
Activity" will help clinicians understand
the highly complex physiological connection
between exercise and movement therapies and
physiological and psychological health and
well-being. [...] This
text helps put to rest Cartesian dualism,
black-box metaphors, and the belief that
the mind-brain connection is too complex
to truly understand. [...] The relevance
of this book cuts across disciplines and
provides insights and explanations for
many exercise-related questions that for
a long time appeared to defy answers.
I relished the opportunity
to review this book given my interdisciplinary
research and teaching interests. On balance,
there is much to gain by reading this volume
and it may lead other readers to reflect and
rethink their own approach to studying human
physical activity behaviour. If it does, then
the editors' motivation for expending time
and effort bringing together all the information
presented in the Psychobiology of Physical
Activity will be richly rewarded.
This book will introduce
many of us to exciting new territory.
The text puts research
into practice and is informative in its
approach to the study of human behaviour
and physical activity. This text is suitable
for both academics and postgraduate
students, and despite my limited
knowledge of this area, it was a
|Graduate Study in Exercise Psychology|
Would you like to conduct cutting-edge research on fascinating topics, such as human emotions and human health? Would you like to work in a state-of-the-art lab with some of the nicest people around? Would you like to publish in some of the leading scientific journals? Then, join our team!
Prospective applicants for entering the master's degree program in exercise psychology are strongly encouraged to e-mail Dr Ekkekakis prior to applying. In particular, prospective applicants should read this letter (in PDF), explaining the difference between sport and exercise psychology.
Prospective applicants for entering the doctoral program in exercise psychology are required to contact Dr Ekkekakis prior to applying. Requests for reprints of research articles are welcome. Please, look at the list of recent articles and let me know which ones you would like to receive. Also, please explain your reasons for becoming interested in exercise psychology, which particular aspects of the exercise psychology research conducted at ISU you are mostly interested in, and what your career goals are.
Pictured above: Charles S. Carver, Spyridoula Vazou, Gaynor Parfitt, Roger Eston, Adrian Taylor, Susan Backhouse, Elaine Hargreaves (Rose), Stuart Biddle, Jeffrey S. Burgdorf, Michel Cabanac, John D. Salamone, Victor Johnston, David M. Warburton, Jerry R. Thomas.