The Grad School Project – Psychological Effects of Exercise (weeks 1 and 2)

The first two weeks of the spring semester have started really well.  This group of courses is going to challenge me to freshen up on my stats.  My three courses include:

  • Kines 700: PA psychology
  • Kines 791: PA Epidemiology
  • Kiness 699: Independent study in pediatric fitness

The following is my reflection on Kines 700 from the first two weeks.

Exercise adherence is a very difficult issue.  Education isn’t working.  We know that 50% will quit exercise within 6 month, and another 50% of what’s left will quit by 9 months.  By one year, everyone is done!  We’re applying behavioral change theories in an attempt to be more successful at getting people to make healthier choices and be more physically active.  One interesting area of development is the use of technology, with all the apps and being plugged in.  The digital advances are particularly interesting to me – make it easy (and fun?) for people; also include social networks because it’s been shown that the social component is essential – does that include social networks?  “Be more active, watch less TV” isn’t working.  We need to look at it differently.

Regarding exercise and mental health, we talked about the iceberg profile – athletes show exactly opposite signs of mental health as the inactive population.  And exercise has been shown to be as effective as antidepressants, sometimes even exceeding their effectiveness.  How do we get this implemented in our society?  What is the dose-response necessary?  Lastly, there has been no follow-up for studies on children.  The childhood obesity pandemic is completely unacceptable.  We have seen short-term affects in children when the increase their physical activity; how do we follow-up and change their lifestyles?

Dr. Mogan visited us the second week and told stories from his career.  He is considered the father of Exercise Psychology!  It really was an honor to have him with us.  His experiences range from working with the U.S. Olympic Committee to working in State mental health hospitals.  He has a particular interest in hypnosis, which was surprising to me but difficult to refute some of the results, and thus possibilities.

Dr. William Morgan

One interesting bit of research that Dr. Morgan presented was the idea of association vs. dissociation.  The conversation here is with elite marathon runners: do they associate and think about the pain of their body as they are competing, or do the dissociate and think about other distractions and not their pain.  Elite runners associate with their pain and their body, while sub-elite runners dissociated.

The most interesting topics Dr. Morgan discussed was his concept called Factor P.  Presented at ACSM in 2006, he suggested that we need to think of exercise and physical activity differently.  We need to think of working with Factor P, namely purpose.  Commuting to work, taking the dog for a walk, being involved in exercise groups.  These are example where there is a higher purpose than to just lose weight or firm up.  I have had this view for years, suggesting to all of my clients that they need to sign up for a run to add context and meaning to their workouts.  I’ve said that working out for the sake of working out simply does not work for 95% of the population – it certainly doesn’t for me, and I’m becoming an expert in the field.  As he says, running on a treadmill to nowhere is probably not a good idea.  Dr. Morgan has had a profound influence on my training principles for years; he was an instructor in PE 100 back in my undergraduate days.  The concept of Factor P was easily the biggest take-away from our lecture Tuesday afternoon.

Those are my thoughts. What are yours?

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