Body mass index is correlated to the pleasure experienced during self-selected exercise in people with depressive disorders

Robert Stanton, Peter R J Reaburn, Brenda Happell

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting AbstractResearchpeer-review


Background: Acute exercise at self-selected intensity is shown to improve well-being, vigour, mood and calmness in people with mental illness, while reducing arousal depression and weakness. Affective valance (pleasant/unpleasant feelings) during exercise is shown to predict long-term exercise adherence in healthy populations and is associated with ratings of perceived exertion following self-selected exercise in people with mental illness. Additionally, affective responses to self-selected exercise differ between mental illnesses. In healthy populations, affective responses differ between overweight and healthy-weight individuals. Given the prevalence of overweight and obesity in people with mental illness, it is important to understand how weight status may impact affective responses to exercise, and subsequent exercise prescription.

Methods: Forty adult (45.1 ± 13.8 years, 33.1 ± 9.6 kg m−2) inpatient mental health consumers with anxiety disorders (n = 14), bipolar disorders (n = 12) or depressive disorders (n = 14) participated in the study. Participants self-reported affective valance using the Hardy and Rejeski Feeling Scale immediately prior to, and immediately following, an inpatient group exercise class comprising aerobic and resistance exercise performed at self-selected intensity. Correlations between change in affective valance and body mass index were examined using Pearsons r.

Results: Change in affective valance during self-selected exercise was moderately but significantly correlated with body mass index in people with depressive disorders (r = −0.608, p = 0.047) but not in people with anxiety disorders (r = 0.302, p = 0.396) or bipolar disorders (r = 0.214, p = 0.528).

Discussion: For inpatients with depression undertaking group aerobic and resistance training at self-selected intensity, body mass index is negatively correlated with change in affective valance such that those with a greater body mass index, experienced a smaller increase in affective valance. This is consistent with previous studies which report overweight participants experience less pleasure during exercise compared to healthy weight individuals. Given the prevalence of overweight and obesity in mental health consumers, implementing exercise interventions based on the affective response may assist clinicians in individualising exercise prescription for this vulnerable population.
Original languageEnglish
Article number210
Pages (from-to)e91-e92
Number of pages2
JournalJournal of Science and Medicine in Sport
Issue numberSuppl 1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


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