Cool down and Enjoy

June 21st, 2010 by Phil Weiser Leave a reply »

What helps people enjoy exercising?

Well, Soundarapandian, Ekkekakis, & Welch (2010) wowed me with a really important answer to this question via an attention getting slide presentation. That happened on Friday, June 4th, at the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting in Baltimore.

Its title is a kick: “Exercise As An Affective Experience: Does Adding A Positive End Impact Future Exercise Choice?”

And the study design was simple: Young adults rated the Feeling Scale for pleasure-displeasure during 20 min of treadmill exercise. They varied the total duration of the bout by either having the participants stop immediately at 20 min or after an additional 5-min cool-down. In a 3rd session, participants were given the choice to repeat one of the 2 previous exercise bouts.

And look at the results: Pleasure did decline progressively during the 20 min exercise bouts; that is, pleasure became significantly less positive. But, it improved markedly during the cool-down.

Even more interesting:  The participants chose, at a 2:1 ratio, “to repeat the exercise bout that ended positively (even though it was longer) over the one that ended negatively.” [my emphasis gladly added]

The investigators concluded: “Providing exercisers with a more pleasant “end” could influence subsequent exercise decisions, even if this results in performing more exercise.”

My Comments: Kress & Statler (2007) found in former Olympic cyclist that their “data again support the notion that the perception of pain is a choice.” (Read this post) Paddy Ekkekakis’s research group even put the word “choice” in the title of their presentation !!!! Just notice that twice as many study participants picked the longer exercise workout after they had experienced it as producing a more pleasant end-exercise mood state. For me, it reinforces the idea that decision-making power really comes from making choices, that self-regulation can optimize emotional experience.

Interesting projects lead to more Questions:

  • Survey how many fitness and rehab programs include active cool-down or also include both active warm-up and active cool-down.
  • Will active warm-up moderate the decline in affect? Check out the Step-up Procedure  used with cardiac patients (Weiser et al., 2007).
  • Do high fit persons design their own workout session to include active warm-up and active cool-down?
  • Would alterating intervals of exercise at the target exercise intensity with active cool-down lead to a less unpleasant experience for the entire session?

Take-home Message (for me anyway): Paddy Ekkekakis and his research group have really challenged the view that, “Behavioral decision-making in the context of exercise has been assumed to rely on rational cognitive processes.” This cognitive approach to exercise decision-making could also be called “problem- focused coping.” Their research findings support “affective constructs, such as pleasure- displeasure, may [indeed] have considerable explanatory potential.” Their approach to decision-making is more akin to “emotion-focused coping.”


Soundarapandian, S, Ekkekakis, P., & Welch, A. S. (2010)  Exercise as an affective experience: Does adding a positive end impact future exercise choice? Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 42, S76.

Kress, J. L. & Statler, T. (2007) A naturalistic investigation of former Olympic cyclists’ cognitive strategies for coping with exertional pain during performance. Journal of Sport Behavior, 30,428-452.

Weiser, P. C., Wojciechowicz, V., Funck, A., & Robertson, R. J. (2007)  Perceived effort step-up procedure for self-regulating stationary cycle exercise intensity by patients with cardiovascular disease. Perceptual and Motor Skills;104:236-253


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