Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation

8-2013

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department

Psychological and Brain Sciences

Committee Chair

Salmon, Paul

Committee Member

Mast, Benjamin

Committee Member

Stetson, Barbara

Committee Member

Sephton, Sandra

Committee Member

Hanaki-Martin, Saori

Abstract

This study focuses on an evolving, interdisciplinary area of research involving Exercise Science and Clinical Psychology. It investigated the relationship between the perception of present-moment exertion or effort during exercise and a concept called mindfulness. Exertion is commonly measured more objectively using physiological measures (e.g., heart rate) or more subjectively using self-rated Ratings of Perceived Exertion (RPE). Mindfulness is characterized as “present-moment, non-judgmental awareness,” or “living in the present.” Despite the acknowledged benefits of physical activity, many people find it burdensome, stressful, and emotionally taxing, especially when first starting an exercise program. Based upon previous research, it was hypothesized that mindfulness would affect RPE during exercise, and that people who by nature are “mindful” would perceive exercise-based exertion more accurately, measured by correlating an objective index of physical exertion (heart rate) and RPE. If true, mindfulness training could: 1) reduce the perception of exercise as burdensome; 2) increase motivation to exercise, and; 3) promote safety during exercise by preventing over-exertion. Ninety undergraduate and graduate students ages18-23 were recruited from psychology courses for this study. All were fluent in English, physically healthy, and exercised three or more times per week. They completed a series of self-report paper-and-pencil questionnaires measuring mindfulness and related psychological factors. Next, they exercised on a treadmill for between 10 and 20 minutes, during which RPE were periodically assessed. Exercise intensity was gradually increased up to a predetermined heart rate level (76% of their age-predicted maximum heart rate) by varying treadmill speed and elevation. Behaviorally, this involved a transition from walking to jogging or running. Results of this study suggested that mindfulness was significantly negatively correlated with RPE, particularly during light exercise intensity. No relationship was found between mindfulness and RPE accuracy. Overall, these results suggest that the relationship between mindfulness and RPE is likely a fruitful area for future research.

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