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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Brown: Positive Incidental Affect and Exercising are Reciprocally Influential during the Course of a Day

Previous research suggests that how people feel throughout the course of a day (i.e. incidental affect) is predictive of exercise behaviour. Essentially, a mostly separate literature suggests that exercise can lead to more positive incidental affect.

[Photo: Ms. Jessica Emerson]

This study was conducted by three researchers in the department of behavioral and social sciences at Brown University School of Public Health: Ms. Jessica Emerson, current doctoral student, Dr. Shira Dunsiger, assistant professor, and Dr. David Williams, associate professor, director of the Center for Health Equity Research, and associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior. This study examined the potential reciprocal effects of incidental affect and exercise behaviour within the same day.

Fifty-nine low-active (exercise <60 min/week), overweight (BMI: 25.0-39.9) adults (ages 18 – 65) participated in a six-month print-based exercise promotion programme. Ecological momentary assessment was used to record self-reported exercise sessions in real time and incidental affective valence (feeling good/bad) as assessed by the 11-point Feeling Scale at random times throughout the day.

Use of a within-subjects cross-lagged, autoregressive model showed that participants were more likely to exercise on days when they experienced more positive incidental affect earlier in the day (b = .58, SE = .10, p < .01), and participants were more likely to experience more positive incidental affect on days when they had exercised (b = .26, SE = .03, p < .01), with the former association significantly stronger than the latter (t = 23.54, p < .01). Ultimately, the findings suggest a positive feedback loop whereby feeling good and exercising are reciprocally influential within the course of a day.

The article was published in Psychological Health in June.

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