Panteleimon "Paddy" Ekkekakis, Ph.D.

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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

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Click to visit the ISU Exercise Psychology Lab

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.

Click here to take a virtual tour of the lab Take a virtual tour of the ISU Exercise Psychology Laboratory

Lecture at the 2004 ACSM in Indianapolis (mp3, 30:08)
Lecture at the 2005 ACSM in Nashville (mp3, 23:43)
Lecture on Affect at the 2014 ACSM in Orlando (mp3, 26:48)
Lecture on Depression at the 2014 ACSM in Orlando (mp3, 25:44)

Lecture in Bern, Switzerland (July 2015) on affective responses
Lecture in Genova, Italy (Feb 2016) on physical activity and depression
Video explaining the Brand & Ekkekakis (2018) Affective-Reflective Theory of Physical Inactivity and Exercise

Interested in the ventilatory or gas exchange threshold? WinBreak 3.7 is the professional software specifically designed to help you in determining the VT/GET.
Main Findings and Theoretical Framework

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Dr Panteleimon Ekkekakis

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).

Near-infrared spectroscopy

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.

The dual-mode theory of exercise-induced affective responses
The dual-mode theory of exercise-induced affective responses

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Study on the effects of walking in middle-aged and older adults

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.


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"Psychobiology of Physical Activity" "Measurement of Affect, Mood, and Emotion" "Routledge Handbook of Physical Activity and Mental Health"

For PDF copies of most published papers, click here

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Reviews of the
"Handbook of Physical Activity and Mental Health"

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:

  • physical activity and the ’feel good’ effect (Sub-ed. Paddy Ekkekakis: with 4 chapters)

  • anxiety disorders (Sub-ed. Jasper Smits: with 3 chapters)

  • depression and mood disorders (Sub-ed. Lynette Craft: with 3 chapters)

  • self-perceptions and self-evaluations (Sub-ed. Kathleen Martin Ginis: with 5 chapters)

  • cognitive function across the lifespan (Sub-ed. Jennifer Etnier: with 4 chapters)

  • psychosocial stress (Sub-ed. Mark Hamer: with 4 chapters)

  • pain (Sub-ed. Dane Cook: with 4 chapters)

  • energy and fatigue (Sub-ed. Justy Reed: with 3 chapters)

  • addictions (Sub-ed. Michael Ussher: with 3 chapters)

  • quality of life in special populations (Sub-ed. Nicole Culos-Reed: with 5 chapters)

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.

Reviews of
"The Measurement of Affect, Mood, and Emotion"

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
"The Measurement of Affect, Mood, and Emotion"

"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."
--Professor James A. Russell, Boston College

"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 field forward."
--Stuart Biddle, Professor of Physical Activity & Health, Loughborough University

"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 research."
--Professor Adrian Taylor, Chair in Exercise and Health Psychology, University of Exeter

"This definitive book on measurement of affect, mood, and emotion is necessary reading for all scientists seeking to employ self-report assessments of these central concepts."
--Robert E. Thayer, Professor of Psychology, California State University, Long Beach, and author of The Biopsychology of Mood and Arousal, The Origin of Everyday Moods, and Calm Energy

"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."
--Toni Yancey, Professor, Health Services, and Co-Director, UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Reviews of
"Psychobiology of Physical Activity"

"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.
Robert Perna and Kerri Monto

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.
Susan H. Backhouse
Sport & Exercise Psychology Review

This book will introduce many of us to exciting new territory.
Roy J. Shephard
Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism

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 stimulating read.
David R. Broom
The Sport and Exercise Scientist

Graduate Study in Exercise Psychology

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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.



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