Motivation and emotion/Book/2019/Exercise types and emotion

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Exercise types and emotion:
What is the effect of different types of exercise on emotion?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Exercise is a way of life for many people. It may be incorporated within their profession, social life, or a way for individuals to escape and relieve stress from their busy lives. However they go about it, most people exercise to improve their overall well-being and mood (Bernstein et al, 2018). There are various reasons people may feel great after participating in these activities. For example, they beat a personal best in a marathon or won the game of football, the key reason is that they are forms of exercise. The purpose of this chapter is to analyse the different types of exercise and how each of them have an effect on emotions.

By knowing the effect that different types of exercise has on people emotionally, it can educate and motivate them to participate in more and various exercise types in order to achieve more positive emotions. This can further lead to an increase in ones subjective well-being.

Focus questions:

  • What is the best exercise type with the best affect on emotion?
  • If someone wants to reduce negative emotions, what is the best exercise for them to participate in?
  • Are there negative consequences to excessive amounts of exercise, in order to achieve maximum positive emotions?

Emotion and types of exercise

  • What is the best exercise type with the best affect on emotion?
  • If someone wants to reduce negative emotions, what is the best exercise for them to participate in?
  • Are there negative consequences to excessive amounts of exercise, in order to achieve maximum positive emotions?

To understand what types of exercise can influence different emotions, there are a number of factors that must be initially established. These factors encompass the different types of exercises utilised and the different emotions which are influenced. Once there is a clear understanding of this, various theories can be applied to the topic question, "what is the effect of different types of exercise on emotion". Emotion is a broad concept, and it is important to acknowledge that there are positive and negative emotions. This current focus is to investigate which types of exercise influence and improve positive emotions. As exercise in general promotes positive emotions, it is important to evaluate how frequently and the duration one should exercise for within a week.

Emotion[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. Emotions displayed in facial expression

Emotion is a complex concept that cannot be defined in one specific way. To best describe emotion, is to explain how they manifest within individuals. It is the psychological construct of feelings and is best described with reference to a list. For example, some of the basic human emotions involve anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise and happiness (Keltner et al, 2003).

The word emotion shares a root with the word motivation. Therefore, emotion is a motive and the motivation behind emotion is to energise and direct behaviour (Keltner et al, 2003).

The study of emotion has been explored in the world of psychology since the 19th century. While there are many theories and studies on the subject, two specific theories will be the focus of this chapter. An older theory known as the James-Lange theory of emotion and a modern theory known as the Broaden and Build theory.

Types of exercise[edit | edit source]

Exercise is any activity that involves moving and an increased heart rate which is subsequently physical movement. Some typical examples of exercise include running, swimming, lifting, walking, jumping, sporting activities, sex, stretching or yoga. Essentially if it's active and movement, it is exercise (See Table 1).

Table 1. Types of training and examples
Types of training Examples of exercise
Strength Lifting and pushing activities - deadlifts, chest press, squats
Core Sex, rowing, crunches, planks, bracing core
Aerobic/Cardio Running, swimming, jumping, walking, sex
Stretching Stretching, yoga, pilates, aerials
Figure 2. Example of cardiovascular training - running

While there are many different examples of multiple types of exercise, it can be summarised in these four categories.

  1. Strength/resistance training (Meirelles, 2004)
  2. Core training (Yu et al, 2013)
  3. Aerobic/Cardiovascular training (Roth et al, 1990)
  4. Stretching/Flexibility training (Weerapong, 2013)

(See Physical exercising for more details).

Strength training involves lifting or pushing heavy objects to gain muscle strength and for cardiovascular training (Meirelles, 2004). Core training is focusing balance and strength on core muscles (also known as your abdominals) (Yu et al, 2013). An example of this is Pilates or everyday workouts with a braced core. Aerobic/Cardiovascular Training is moving your body in various ways to increase your heart rate and for cardiovascular training (Roth et al, 1990). Exercise categorised as cardiovascular are included but not limited to, running, walking, swimming or skipping. Stretching is a way to replenish and revitalise your muscles, to ensure they do not get injured. This can also assist in the increase of one's flexibility (Weerapong, 2013). Activities incorporating stretching include Pilates or Yoga.

Duration, intensity and frequency[edit | edit source]

As exercise leads to an increase in positive emotions, the Australian Government Department of Health have created the "Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines" (2019). According to these guidelines participating in any physical activity is better than doing none. However, they suggest to be active most days of every week, while doing two and a half to five hours of moderate intensity activity. Moreover, one could participate in one and a quarter to two and a half hours of vigorous intensity exercise per week. This includes participating in at least two days of strength based training.

Physical activity guidelines

"Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount."

"Be active on most, preferably all, days every week."

"Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (two and a half to five hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (one and a quarter to two and a half hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week."

"Do muscle strengthening activities on at least two days each week."

(Australian Government Department of Health, 2019)

Theory of emotion and cardiovascular exercise[edit | edit source]

Figure 3. James-Lange theory of emotion flowchart

Through extensive research, it has been concluded that there is a strong correlation between positive emotion and exercise (Bernstein et al, 2018). Furthermore, there has been research on how cardiovascular exercise relates to positive emotions. Much of this research is focused on the topic of endorphins and how this chemical reacts with the body to boost mood and create positive emotions. Subsequently, there are studies that look at how one can become addicted to exercise through excessive amounts of cardiovascular exercise because they emit positive emotions. However, this addiction can lead to trouble in various aspects of life which create negative emotions as the addiction takes over everyday life. This is outlined in the case study below by Bovee and Gunn (2016). How these emotions occur through exercise are evident when considering the James-Lange theory of emotion. This theory explains when one is exercising, how the physiological reactions to exercise can emit emotions, positive or negative.

James-Lange theory on emotion[edit | edit source]

The James-Lange theory of emotion hypothesises that the cause of an emotion is due to the physical reaction to a stimuli (Coleman & Snarey, 2011). Therefore, when there is an activating event, it will cause physiological arousal and this arousal leads to an emotion. This theory was independently developed by two modern psychologists in the 19th-century, William James and Carl Lange. They came together as each of their theories concurred with each other to develop the James-Lange theory. It is well-known as one of the earliest theories of emotion and acts as a foundation for the research of emotion today (Lang, 1994). Displayed in figure 3, is the process of the James-Lange theory. It begins when one is exposed to a event or stimulus, such as consuming a drug, or going for a run. When this event occurs, a physical reaction occurs, such as an elevated heart rate, or release of endorphins. As this physical reaction occurs, it incurs an emotional response, such as excitement or exhaustion.

This theory strongly relates to the emotional response prevalent in cardiovascular exercise. Using the example of running, the stimulus is the movement of arms, legs and activation of the respiratory system. The physical reactions to running is an elevated heart rate, sweating and shortness of breath. Additionally, the emotional response, triggered by a strong level of physical reaction can be excitement or a morphine related feeling, or if the physical reactions occur at a low level, the emotional response could be exhaustion. A physical reaction with cardiovascular exercise is the release of a chemical called endorphins.

Cardiovascular exercises effect on emotion[edit | edit source]

Figure 4. Beta-endorphin

Endorphins are chemicals in the body and are released when engaging in vigorous exercise. When they are released, the endorphins interact with receptions in the brain. This interaction can reduce one's perception of pain and elevate mood (Sharma & Verma, 2014). This elevation can also increase positive emotions. There are three types of endorphins - alpha-endorphins, beta-endorphins, and gamma-endorphins (Chaudhry & Kum, 2019). The endorphins trigger positive feelings similar to morphine. Morphine is a drug that increases positive emotions/mood and reduces pain. Endorphins instil the exact same reaction. Out of these three endorphins, the beta-endorphin (see Figure 4) is the one most closely linked to emotional effects from vigorous cardiovascular and strengthening exercise. This endorphin has been found by Harber and Sutton (1984) to change mood states and stress response. This endorphin is also accredited to what is known as a "runners high". This is what a runner would experience when they start to fatigue which can illicit negative emotions associated with fatigue.They then experience a burst of endorphins that give them the mood boost to continue running (Moore, 2017).

As explained in relation to the James-Lange theory, when one exercises, emotions are triggered by the physiological reaction. One key physiological reaction that emits positive emotions, is the release of endorphins when partaking in cardiovascular exercise. However, this emotional response to cardiovascular exercise is more likely to occur when one is participating in a healthy amount of exercise as opposed to an unhealthy amount of exercise.

The limitations of cardiovascular exercise are outlined in this case study by Bovee and Gunn (2016).

Case Study

This case study is from the article written by Tammy Bovee and Amanda Gunn (2016) on the dangerous of exercise addiction and its relation to emotion and stress. This case study shows that participating in cardiovascular exercise can lead to exercise becoming addictive which then leads to negative emotions because the unrealistic goals they set cannot be met or as a result of having an addiction. The subject, Marco, was experiencing school related stress and decided to join a gym to help elevate this negative emotion. After going to the gym every day, he felt his anxiety and stress reduce. Regardless that he noticed this change, he started to find that reaching his goals were becoming more difficult, therefore he decided to add cardiovascular training in the form of running to his sessions. He continued to run more as he felt that other activities were not giving him the same feeling that running was. Eventually, he started to skip classes and neglect friends and school to go to the gym. He eventually lost sight of why he originally started running and his stress levels spiked once again as he started to lose friends and fail out of school. Marco became addicted to cardiovascular exercise.

(Bovee & Gunn, 2016)

Further in the article, a study by Slay et al (1998) conclude that 26% of male runners and 25% of female runners have an exercise addiction. From this case study and the study by Slay et al, it is concluded that cardiovascular exercise can lead to exercise addiction, which leads to higher levels of negative emotions such as stress and anxiety.

Theory of emotion and flexibility exercise[edit | edit source]

This part of the chapter looks at a different exercise type and its effect on emotions. The emotional affect that yoga has on people who want to decrease negative emotions are displayed in various studies and educate on the benefits that yoga has on those with negative emotions who are looking to improve their mood (Shapiro et al, 2017). The idea that choosing to participate in yoga to experience new ways of thinking or behaving, in order to increase pleasant experiences is displayed through the broaden and build theory.

Broaden and build theory[edit | edit source]

Broaden and Build theory suggests that by engaging in positive feelings can broaden new ways of thinking and behaving in association with building sources of the self which increase one's well-being (Fredrickson, 2000).

  • Broaden: is that positive emotions can broaden new ways of thinking and behaviour
  • Build: by broadening one's perspective, it can build physical, intellectual and psychological sources that make them feel better (Fredrickson, 2000).

According to Fredrickson (2000) broadening one's mindset can spark a positive emotion which increases pleasant and meaningful events. This is because when one feel good about themselves, they are more likely to experience pleasant events which increases positive emotions. The theory does suggest that the capacity to experience positive emotions is a fundamental human ability (Fredrickson, 2001). This leads to the idea that one is responsible for their own well-being by allowing themselves to experience aspects of life that increases positive emotions. The sources that are developed after one's perspective is broadened, can be reflected, improved and utilised later to raise the chances of successfully coping and surviving when faced with negative emotions. This is a relatively modern theory compared to the James-Lange theory and therefore, has less developed ideas due to lack of critiques and modifications.

Furthermore, the aspects of life that one can experience that leads to positive emotions includes many forms of exercise such as walking, hiking or swimming. In this case, the focus of this theory can be applied to the flexibility exercise, yoga. Here, the activity of yoga is to examine how positive feelings can increase one's well-being and decrease negative emotions. The positive feelings one feels before, during and after exercise can further increase their positive emotions.

Flexibility and core training effect on emotion[edit | edit source]

Figure 6. Contentedness from yoga practices

Various studies have shown that yoga helps reduce anxiety and depression, which leads to an increase in well-being. As stress has an association with negative emotions, it has also been found to heighten negative emotions, such as those associated with depression (Streeter et al., 2012; Streeter et al., 2010). By practicing yoga, negative emotions can significantly reduce. As presented in one study, the participants suffered from Major Depressive Disorder. After a yoga session, they claimed to have reduced depressive symptoms (Shapiro et al, 2017).

A study by Narasimhan et al (2011) looked at the effect of yoga on positive and negative emotions on adults. As yoga is known as a mind-body connection, it is used, and has been used for thousands of years as not only an exercise but a form of medicine. Results show that after the 312 participants completed the yoga camp, they reported to feeling 18% happier, 19.7% more pleased, 28% more content and 17% more glad, than they felt before they started the camp (See table 2). All of these are positive emotions that were bought upon by yoga practices. Although, the results also show that the participants were 3% less excited, which is another positive emotion (See table 2). To conclusively say that yoga practice increase positive emotions, the subjects results in regards to the decrease in negative emotions are much more promising. Results show that the participants felt 49.33% less sad, 47.81% less miserable, 49% less distressed and 46.7% less nervous (See table 2) (Narasimhan et al, 2011). Therefore, it is concluded that from practicing yoga, negative emotions become diminished and that it promotes positive emotions.

Table 2. Results of participants emotions post yoga camp
Emotion -/+ Percentage
Happy + 18%
Pleased +19.17%
Content + 28%
Glad + 17%
Excited - 3%
Sad - 49.33%
Miserable - 47.81%
Distress - 49%
Nervous - 46.7%

Quiz[edit | edit source]

1 Which type of endorphin is most associated with emotion and cardiovascular/strength training?


2 In what order does the flowchart of James-Lange theory go?

Event, emotion, physical reaction
Physical reaction, stimulus, emotion
Emotion, stimulus, physical reaction
Stimulus, physical reaction, emotion

3 Which theory best relates to the relationship between yoga and emotion?

James-Lange theory
Broaden & Build theory
Cannon-Bard theory
Cognitive appraisal theory

4 True or false: Cardiovascular exercise has no correlation with exercise addiction



Please follow these steps and at the end, take a moment to reflect... (If one has any injury or disability, please read first to make sure it is doable)

1. Stand up

2. Walk to a big empty space

3. Reach up high over your head

4. Reach low down to your toes

5. Jump three times

6. Do five squats

7. Rotate your torso five times

8. Sit back down

... is your heart rate higher?

This is a great exercise to do every hour at your desk to get your body moving.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

What have we learnt?[edit | edit source]

Emotion is a complex concept and there is a long list of different types of emotions. Types of exercise can be categorised into four types: strength training, core training, cardiovascular training and flexibility training. The healthy amount of exercise should be moderate to vigorous exercise for approximately two and a half hours to five hours a week and being active everyday. This includes cardiovascular training, flexibility and core training, such as yoga and occasional strength training. The James-Lange theory relates to cardiovascular exercise. It theorises that when there is a stimulus, it leads to a physical reaction, which emits an emotion, positive or negative. When participating in cardiovascular exercise, the physical reactions include increase heart rates and a release of endorphins. Emotional reactions include excitement or a surplus of energy. Limitations of this theory in relation to cardiovascular exercise is that it could lead to an exercise addiction. It is concluded that there are negative consequences when it comes to excessive amounts of exercise. These consequences are forming an addiction which can result in neglecting other important aspects of ones life.

Through broaden and build theory, it is explained that one seeks positive emotions to expand thoughts, resources and well-being. Through this theory, it is known that yoga promotes this idea of bettering ones well-being. By practicing yoga, studies show that it decreases negative emotions while promoting positive emotions. therefore, one gains these positive emotions which able us to broaden thinking and behaviour, build physical, mental and social resources and lead us to a better well-being. Therefore, to reduce negative emotions, yoga and flexibility exercises are the best exercises to do as cardiovascular training can lead to exercise addiction.

Further research[edit | edit source]

Further research on this topic may include more research into exercise addiction. More information on if it is just cardiovascular exercise or if it can expand into other types of exercise. While there are great resources on this topic, it could be argued that it is not as detailed or broad spectrum of research as it could be. There should be more research into endorphins and how emotional responses can change if the endorphins are mixed with other bodily chemicals. There is limited research on how the broaden and build theory relates to exercise types yet it is still a prevalent topic to address.

Take home messages[edit | edit source]

Take home messages to consider is that if someone is feeling a certain level of stress or negative emotions, exercise can help. However, the Australian "Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines" should be loosely followed to ensure one is not participating in excessive amounts of exercise. If one chooses to use exercise (regardless of the type, but specifically cardiovascular training) to help elevate negative emotions, they should ensure that other life aspects are not being neglected. It is important to remember to create a good and balanced work-life-exercise-sleep-social life.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Bernstein, E. E., & Curtiss, J. E., & Wu, G. W. Y., & Barreira, P. J., & McNally, R. J. (2018). Exercise and Emotion Dynamics: An Experience Sampling Study. Emotion. 19(4), 637-644. doi: 10.1037/emo0000462

Bovee, T., & Gunn, G. (2016). Helping Students Experience the Healthful Benefits of Exercise. The Journal of Adventist, 4, 42-46. doi:

Cabanac, M. (2002). What is emotion? Behaviour Processes. 60(2), 69-83. doi:

Chaudhry, S, R., & Kum, B. (2019). Biochemistry, Endorphin. StatPearls.

Coleman, A., & Snarey, J. (2011). James-Lange Theory of Emotion. Encyclopedia Of Child Behavior And Development, 844-846.

Department of Health (2019). Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines and the Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines.

Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218–226. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.56.3.218

Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). The Broaden-and -build theory of positive emotions. The Royal Society. 359, 1367-1377. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2004.1512

Harber, V. J., & Sutton, J. R. (1984). Endorphins and exercise. Sports Med. 1(2), 154-171. doi: 10.2165/00007256-198401020-00004.

Keltner, D., & Shiota, M. N. (2003). New displays and new emotions: A commentary on Rozin and Cohen. Emotion, 3(1), 86-91. doi: 10.1037/1528-3542.3.1.86.

Lang, P. J. (1994). The varieties of emotional experience: A meditation on James-Lange theory. Psychological Review, 101(2), 211–221. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.101.2.211

Lindquist, K. A., & Kober, H., & Wager, T. D., & Bliss-Moreau, E. (2012). The Brain Basis of Emotion: A Meta-Analytic Review. Behavioural and Brain Sciences. 35, 121-202. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X11000446

Meirelles, C., & Gomes, P. S. C. (2004). Acute effects of resistance exercise on energy expenditure: revisiting the impact of the training variables. Rev Bras Med Esporte. 10(2): 131-138.

Moore, M. (2017). Endorphins and Exercise: A Puzzling Relationship. The Physician and Sportsmedicine. 10(2), 111-114. doi:

Narasimhan, L. & Nagarathna, R. & Nagendra, H. R. (2011). Effect of integrated yogic practices on positive and negative emotions in healthy adults. International Journal of Yoga. 4(1): 13-19. doi: 10.4103/0973-6131.78174

Roth, D. L., & Bachtler, S. D., & Fillingim, R. B. (1990). Acute Emotional and Cardiovascular Effects of Stressful Mental Work During Aerobic Exercise. Psychophysiology. 27(6): 694-701. Doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.1990.tb03196.x

Shapiro, D., Cook, I. A., Davydov, D. M., Ottaviani, C., Leuchter, A. F., & Abrams, M. (2007). Yoga as a complementary treatment of depression: effects of traits and moods on treatment outcome. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine, 4(4), 493-502.

Sharma, A., & Verma, D. (2014). Endorphins: Endogenous Opioid in Human Cells. World Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmceutical Science, 4(1), 357-374.

Simon-Thomas, E. R., & Keltner, D. J., & Sauter, D., & Sinicropi-Yao, L., & Abramson, A. (2009). The voice conveys specific emotions: Evidence from Vocal burst displays. Emotion, 9(6), 838-846. doi: 10.1037/a0017810

Slay, H. & Hayaki, J., & Napolitano, M. A., & Brownell, K. D. (1998). Motivations for Running and Eating Attitudes in Obligatory Versus Nonobligatory Runners. International Journal of eating Disorders 23:3, 267-275.

Streeter, C. C., Whitfield, T. H., Owen, L., Rein, T., Karri, S. K., Yakhkind, A., Perlmutter, A., Prescott, A., Renshaw, P. F., Ciraulo, D. A. & Jensen, J. E. (2010). Effects of yoga versus walking on mood, anxiety, and brain GABA levels: a randomized controlled MRS study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16, 1145-1152.

Weerapong, P., & Hume, P. A., & Kolt, G. S. (2013). Stretching: Mechanisms and Benefits for Sport Performance and Injury Prevention. Physical Therapy Review Journal. 9(4): 189-206. Doi: 10.1179/108331904225007078

Yu, S., & Park, S. (2013). The effects of core stability strength exercise on muscle activity and trunk impairment scale in stroke patients. Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation. 9(3): 362-367. Doi: 10.12965/jer.130042

External links[edit | edit source]