Exercisers achieve greater acute exercise-induced mood enhancement than nonexercisers

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2008 Feb;89(2):358-63. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2007.09.026.


Objective: To determine whether a single session of exercise of appropriate intensity and duration for aerobic conditioning has a different acute effect on mood for nonexercisers than regular exercisers.

Design: Repeated-measures design.

Setting: Research laboratory.

Participants: Adult nonexercisers, moderate exercisers, and ultramarathon runners (8 men, 8 women in each group).

Interventions: Treadmill exercise at self-selected speeds to induce a rating of perceived exertion (RPE) of 13 (somewhat hard) for 20 minutes, preceded and followed by 5 minutes at an RPE of 9 (very light).

Main outcome measure: Profile of Mood States before and 5 minutes after exercise.

Results: Vigor increased by a mean +/- standard deviation of 8+/-7 points (95% confidence interval [CI], 5-12) among the ultramarathon runners and 5+/-4 points (95% CI, 2-9) among the moderate exercisers, with no improvement among the nonexercisers. Fatigue decreased by 5+/-6 points (95% CI, 2-8) for the ultramarathon runners and 4+/-4 points (95% CI, 1-7) for the moderate exercisers, with no improvement among the nonexercisers. Postexercise total mood disturbance decreased by a mean of 21+/-16 points (95% CI, 12-29) among the ultramarathon runners, 16+/-10 points (95% CI, 7-24) among the moderate exercisers, and 9+/-13 points (95% CI, 1-18) among the nonexercisers.

Conclusions: A single session of moderate aerobic exercise improves vigor and decreases fatigue among regular exercisers but causes no change in these scores for nonexercisers. Although total mood disturbance improves postexercise in exercisers and nonexercisers, regular exercisers have approximately twice the effect as nonexercisers. This limited postexercise mood improvement among nonexercisers may be an important deterrent for persistence with an exercise program.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mood Disorders / psychology*
  • Physical Fitness