Psychological Responses to Acute Aerobic, Resistance, or Combined Exercise in Healthy and Overweight Individuals: A Systematic Review

Clin Med Insights Cardiol. 2017 Apr 20;11:1179546817701725. doi: 10.1177/1179546817701725. eCollection 2017.


Introduction: Psychological distress and depression are risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). As such, a reduction in psychological distress and increase in positive well-being may be important to reduce the risk for future development of CVD. Exercise training may be a good strategy to prevent and assist in the management of psychological disorders. The psychological effects of the initial exercise sessions may be important to increase exercise adherence. The aims of this systematic review were (a) to examine whether acute aerobic, resistance, or a combination of the 2 exercises improves psychological well-being and reduces psychological distress in individuals with healthy weight and those who are overweight/obese but free from psychological disorders, and (b) if so, to examine which form of exercise might yield superior results.

Methods: The online database PubMed was searched for articles using the PICO (patient, intervention, comparison, and outcome) framework for finding scientific journals based on key terms.

Results: Forty-two exercise studies met the inclusion criteria. A total of 2187 participants were included (age: 18-64 years, body mass index [BMI]: 21-39 kg/m2). Only 6 studies included participants with a BMI in the overweight/obese classification. Thirty-seven studies included aerobic exercise, 2 included resistance exercise, 1 used a combination of aerobic and resistance, and 2 compared the effects of acute aerobic exercise versus the effects of acute resistance exercise. The main findings of the review were that acute aerobic exercise improves positive well-being and have the potential to reduce psychological distress and could help reduce the risks of future CVD. However, due to the limited number of studies, it is still unclear which form of exercise yields superior psychological benefits.

Conclusions: Obese, overweight, and healthy weight individuals can exhibit psychological benefits from exercise in a single acute exercise session, and these positive benefits of exercise should be used by health professionals as a tool to increase long-term participation in exercise in these populations.

Keywords: Combined exercise; psychological well-being; single bout.

Publication types

  • Review