A Comparison of Post-Exercise Mood Enhancement across Common Exercise Distraction Activities

By Russell, William; Pritschet, Brian et al. | Journal of Sport Behavior, December 2003 | Go to article overview

A Comparison of Post-Exercise Mood Enhancement across Common Exercise Distraction Activities


Russell, William, Pritschet, Brian, Frost, Beth, Emmett, John, Pelley, T. J., Black, Judy, Owen, Jill, Journal of Sport Behavior


There is a strong consensus within the exercise psychology literature that mood enhancement is a primary benefit of physical activity (Berger, 1996; Berger & McInnman, 1993; International Society of Sport Psychology, 1992; Morgan, 1997). The International Society for Sport Psychology (1992) recently described psychological benefits of physical activity and concluded that exercise has been related to desirable changes in mood. Based on a systematic analysis of self-regulation techniques, Thayer, Newman, & McClain (1994) reported that exercise was the most successful technique at changing a negative mood. Recently, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (1996) also indicated that physical activity is associated with improvements in mood states such as anxiety and depression.

Mood enhancement has resulted from both chronic (Brown, Wang, Ebberling, Fortlace, Puleo, Benson, & Rippe, 1994) and acute exercise bouts (McGowan, et al., 1996; Pierce & Pate, 1994; Roth, 1989; Steptoe & Cox, 1988), yet there is no current consensus for explanations for potential mechanisms in short or long-term exercise effects on mood state and both physiological and psychological mechanisms have been proposed (Berger & Motl, 2000). Despite common perceptions, there is little research evidence to support any individual or group factors as consistently producing mood benefits as measured by the Profile of Mood States (POMS; McNair, Lorr, & Dropplemann, 1971). Research on physiological mechanisms includes the endorphin, cortisol, monoamine, and thermogenic hypotheses (Berger & Motl, 2000). However, support for hypotheses such as the endorphin hypothesis is equivocal because the blood brain barrier is impermeable to peptides in the blood stream and endorphin levels have not been related to mood changes on the POMS (Farrell et al., 1986; Farrell, Gustafson, Morgan, & Pert, 1987). Psychological mechanisms also may influence the relationship between exercise and mood alteration. Potential psychological mechanisms include; improved self-concept, feelings of self-efficacy, enjoyment, expectancy of psychological benefits, increased sense of control, and "time-out" from daily hassles (Berger, 1996; Berger, Owen, & Man, 1993; Morgan, 1985). In particular, acute exercise has been purported to produce short-term mood improvements due to its distraction characteristics and it was recently proposed that continued research of the POMS necessitated determining whether the "time-out" hypothesis is a viable explanation for mood alteration (Berger & Motl, 2000).

Studies examining acute mood changes after a single bout of exercise have found fairly consistent beneficial changes in mood as measured by the POMS. Steptoe and Cox (1988) compared females participating in single bouts of high and low intensity exercise accompanied by either music or a metronome and found that while music did not influence post-exercise mood, beneficial mood changes were observed following low-intensity exercise. Single session activity bouts have shown exercise participants to exhibit beneficial POMS susbscale changes compared to controls during exercise compared to post-exercise (Ewing, Scott, Mandez, & McBride, 1984), in response to aerobic exercise in college students (Roth, 1989) and older women (Peirce and Pate, 1994) and for submaximal exercise (Steptoe, Kearsely, & Waiters, 1993).

Berger and Owen (1988) proposed a tentative exercise taxonomy for mood enhancement with exercise which includes an overall requirement for exercise to be (1) enjoyable, (2) aerobic, (3) noncompetitive, (4) temporally and spatially certain, and (5) repetitive and rhythmical. Suggested training requirements have included (6) 2-3 times per week, (7) moderate intensity, and (8) 20-30 minutes in duration. However, activities that are nonaerobic, but meet the other taxonomy requirements have also shown to improve mood (Berger & Owen, 1992; McGowan et al. …

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