Little information exists as to the exercise intensity that adolescents enjoy and whether identifiable subgroups of adolescents will choose higher-intensity exercise.
Healthy adolescents (N = 74; mean age = 11.09 years) completed a cardiorespiratory fitness test, a moderate-intensity exercise task, and an exercise task at an intensity that felt “good.” Heart rate (HR), work rate (WR), and ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) were assessed every 3 minutes.
During the “feels good” task, adolescents exercised at a HR recognized as beneficial for cardiovascular health (mean HR = 66% to 72% of HR at VO2peak). Adolescents who experienced a positive affective shift during the moderate-intensity task engaged in higher-intensity exercise during the feels-good task as compared with those whose affective response to moderate-intensity exercise was neutral or negative (76% of peak HR vs. 70% of peak HR, P < .01).There was no difference between groups in RPE.
Adolescents tend to select an exercise intensity associated with fitness benefits when afforded the opportunity to choose an intensity that feels good. An identified subgroup engaged in higher-intensity exercise without a commensurate perception of working harder. Encouraging adolescents to exercise at an intensity that feels good may increase future exercise without sacrificing fitness.