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Cardio workout is pleasanter if you decide yourself how hard you train

When people can decide themselves how intensively they are going to train, they experience cardio training as less unpleasant than when they do not have this freedom. The same applies even when intensity is not a factor, write sports scientists at the University of Exeter in BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Cardio workout is pleasanter if you decide yourself how hard you train
The researchers got 27 teenage girls to run for 20 minutes on a treadmill on several occasions.

On the first occasion the girls were allowed to decide for themselves how fast they ran or walked. [Self-selected session] During the session the researchers recorded the intensity of the girls.

On the second occasion the treadmill decided how fast the girls ran [Prescribed session].

The equipment actually let the girls run at exactly the same speed and for exactly the same amount of time as they had done themselves. So the machine let the girls copy their previous workout but they had no control over this.

The table below shows that the subjects exerted themselves equally in both tests.

Cardio workout is pleasanter if you decide yourself how hard you train

Cardio workout is pleasanter if you decide yourself how hard you train

Nevertheless, the subjects found the session more tedious and tiring if they had not determined themselves but that the treadmill had determined how intensively they had to train, as the figure above shows.

"With the current decline in physical activity in adolescent females these findings are particularly relevant", the researchers wrote. "To identify ways of enhancing one's exercise experience with the aim of improving adherence to exercise may be useful in stopping this decline in physical activity."

"The current study demonstrated that allowing adolescent females autonomy over the intensity of their exercise session, instead of prescribing it and removing that autonomy, elicited more positive affective responses and lower ratings of perceived exertion."

"These findings demonstrate the importance of autonomy and self-paced physical activity in the public health domain and support several studies highlighting the relationships that exist between autonomy and self-paced physical activity and affective response to exercise. Even though the intensity did not differ between the self-selected and prescribed sessions, there was a significant impact on the quality of the affective experience, which may have potential long-term implications for adherence to exercise."

BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil. 2014 Sep 25;6:35.

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