Walking facilitates positive affect (even when expecting the opposite)

Emotion. 2016 Aug;16(5):775-85. doi: 10.1037/a0040270. Epub 2016 Apr 21.


Across 3 experiments, we rely on theoretical advancements that connect movement, embodiment, and reward-seeking behavior to test the proposal that walking incidental to routine activity (heretofore referred to as "incidental ambulation")-not specifically "exercise"-is a robust facilitator of positive affect. Experiment 1 reveals that ambulation facilitates positive affect even when participants are blind to the purpose of this activity. Experiment 2 further demonstrates the robustness of this effect of incidental ambulation by documenting its operation under conditions of low interest, as well as its power to override expectations of mood worsening. Experiment 3 replicates the main finding while eliminating the possibility that posture, ambient events, or experimenter bias account for the results. Taken together, the experiments demonstrate that incidental ambulation systematically promotes positive affect regardless of the focus on such movement, and that it can override the effects of other emotionally relevant events such as boredom and dread. The findings hold key implications for understanding the role of movement in shaping affect as well as for clarifying the embodied nature of emotion. (PsycINFO Database Record

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Anticipation, Psychological / physiology
  • Boredom
  • Fear / physiology
  • Humans
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Young Adult