Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Perceived Exertion and Affect at Varying Intensities of Running

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Perceived Exertion and Affect at Varying Intensities of Running

Article excerpt

An individual's cognition and affect during physical work can lead to a positive or negative evaluation of the task. For example, athletes and exercisers have described positive psychological states during movement, which Csikszentmihalyi (1975) has defined as "flow." However, the experience of fatigue and high levels of exertion can also be aversive (Weiser, Kinsman, & Stamper, 1973). It is possible that these affective and cognitive responses may lead to either the continuance or cessation of a task. Additionally, an understanding of these responses may lead to interventions designed to enhance the exercise experience and influence adherence to exercise.

Hardy and Rejeski (1989) have demonstrated that what one feels (perceived exertion) can differ from how one feels (affect) during exercise. Investigating exercisers' perceptions of exertion and affect during exercise at three different exercise intensities, Hardy and Rejeski revealed that ratings of perceived exertion (RPE; Borg, 1985) increased with intensity of exercise and had a stronger relationship to physiological cues than to affect. Whereas affect, as measured by the Feeling Scale (FS; Rejeski, Best, Griffith, & Kenney, 1987), demonstrated greater variability as exercise intensity increased. Another interesting result was that an assessment of affect during exercise taken after exercise was completed (posttask assessment of in-task affect) demonstrated a significant relationship to perceived exertion following low and high intensities of exercise but not after a moderate intensity of exercise.

Rejeski (1981, 1985) has postulated that the parallel processing model of Leventhal and Everhart (1979) explains how physiological sensory input is processed. This model proposes that peripheral and central cues (physiological cues and emotion, respectively) interact prior to the arrival of sensory information to the cortex. Thus, perceptions are constructed preconsciously and affect can play a role in the perception of effort. In addition, various stimuli can distract an individual away from distressful cues. Finally, the ability to attend to multiple sources is limited. Rejeski (1985) has suggested that when working at near maximal capacity, physiological cues will be most salient and will predominate in the determination of RPE. Several investigators have demonstrated support for the parallel processing model in describing how an individual's RPE is determined during exercise (Hardy, Hall, & Prestholdt, 1986; Rejeski et al., 1987; Rejeski & Sanford, 1984).

The purpose of this study was to extend this area of investigation using trained athletes in a field setting. The subjects in the Hardy and Rejeski (1989) study were 30 undergraduate males exercising in a lab on a cycle ergometer. The subjects in the present study were highly trained distance runners doing a workout on an indoor track. Furthermore, we assessed two physiological indexes that were feasible to assess in a field setting and were linked to physiological cues. Heart rate (HR) was chosen because it responds linearly to the energy demands of physical activity (Rejeski, 1985). Lactate (La), a by-product of anaerobic metabolism responsive to increases in intensity of exercise, was chosen because of its physiological link to ventilation. Additionally, HR will level off at the higher exercise intensities while La will demonstrate a sharper increase at peak intensities.

The parallel processing model and the supporting research led us to expect that as exercise intensity increased, RPE would increase and affect would become more negative. In addition, although RPE and affect are conceptually distinct, it was expected that as the demand of exercise increased a moderate relationship between RPE and affect would appear. It was also expected that RPE would maintain a stronger relationship to physiological variables than affect to physiological variables. Finally, although our subject population differed from Hardy and Rejeski's (1989), we expected posttask assessment of in-task affect to be related to RPE at low and high intensities but not at moderate intensities where physiological cues are most ambiguous. …

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