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Reciprocal within-day associations between incidental affect and exercise: An EMA study

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Previous research suggests that how people feel throughout the course of a day (i.e. incidental affect) is predictive of exercise behaviour. A mostly separate literature suggests that exercise can lead to more positive incidental affect.

Objective: This study examines the potential reciprocal effects of incidental affect and exercise behaviour within the same day.

Design: Fifty-nine low-active (exercise <60 min/week), overweight (BMI: 25.0–39.9) adults (ages 18–65) participated in a six-month print-based exercise promotion programme.

Main outcome measures: Ecological momentary assessment was used to record self-reported exercise sessions in real time and incidental affective valence (feeling good/bad) as assessed by the 11-point Feeling Scale at random times throughout the day.

Results: Use of a within-subjects cross-lagged, autoregressive model showed that participants were more likely to exercise on days when they experienced more positive incidental affect earlier in the day (b = .58, SE = .10, p < .01), and participants were more likely to experience more positive incidental affect on days when they had exercised (b = .26, SE = .03, p < .01), with the former association significantly stronger than the latter (t = 23.54, p < .01).

Conclusion: The findings suggest a positive feedback loop whereby feeling good and exercising are reciprocally influential within the course of a day.
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Keywords: ecological momentary assessment; exercise; incidental affect

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Brown University School of Public Health, Providence, RI, USA

Publication date: January 2, 2018

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