There is a paucity of methods for improving the affective experience of exercise. We tested a novel method based on discoveries about the relation between exercise intensity and pleasure, and lessons from behavioral economics. We examined the effect of reversing the slope of pleasure during exercise from negative to positive on pleasure and enjoyment, remembered pleasure, and forecasted pleasure. Forty-six adults were randomly assigned to a 15-min bout of recumbent cycling of either increasing intensity (0–120% of watts corresponding to the ventilatory threshold) or decreasing intensity (120–0%). Ramping intensity down, thereby eliciting apositive slope of pleasure during exercise, improved postexercise pleasure and enjoyment, remembered pleasure, and forecasted pleasure. The slope of pleasure accounted for 35–46% of the variance in remembered and forecasted pleasure from 15 min to 7 days postexercise. Ramping intensity down makes it possible to combine exposure to vigorous and moderate intensities with a pleasant affective experience.
Zachary Zenko and Panteleimon Ekkekakis are with the Department of Kinesiology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA. Dan Ariely is with Duke University, Durham, NC.