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Exercise does not feel the same when you are overweight: the impact of self-selected and imposed intensity on affect and exertion

Abstract

Objective:

The lower rates of adherence to physical activity commonly found among overweight adults compared to their normal-weight counterparts might be due to the activity being experienced as more laborious and less pleasant, particularly when its intensity is prescribed (or imposed) rather than self-selected.

Design:

Within-subject design, with two 20-min sessions of treadmill exercise, one at self-selected speed and one at imposed speed, 10% higher than the self-selected.

Subjects:

A total of 16 overweight (BMI: 31 kg/m2) and 9 normal-weight (BMI: 22 kg/m2) previously sedentary but healthy women (age: 43 years).

Measurements:

Heart rate, oxygen uptake relative to body weight, and ratings of perceived exertion and pleasure–displeasure were assessed every 5 min.

Results:

The overweight women showed higher oxygen uptake and perceived exertion than the normal-weight women during both sessions. Although the two groups did not differ in ratings of pleasure–displeasure during the session at self-selected speed, only the overweight women showed a significant decline when the speed was imposed.

Conclusions:

Imposing a speed that is just 10% higher than what overweight women would have self-selected led to a significant decline in reported pleasure. Over time, this could diminish the enjoyment of and intrinsic motivation for physical activity, reducing adherence.

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Acknowledgements

This research study was supported by a Special Research Initiation Grant (SPRIG) from Iowa State University (Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Advanced Studies) and a Behavioral Science Track Award for Rapid Transition (B/START) from the National Institute of Mental Health (R03 MH069724).

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Correspondence to P Ekkekakis.

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Ekkekakis, P., Lind, E. Exercise does not feel the same when you are overweight: the impact of self-selected and imposed intensity on affect and exertion. Int J Obes 30, 652–660 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803052

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803052

Keywords

  • exercise prescription
  • self-determination theory
  • theory of planned behavior

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