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Margaret Schneider and Priel Schmalbach

Background:

Little information exists as to the exercise intensity that adolescents enjoy and whether identifiable subgroups of adolescents will choose higher-intensity exercise.

Methods:

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.

Results:

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.

Conclusions:

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.