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J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2011 Dec;33(6):884-902.

Unpacking the feel-good effect of free-time physical activity: between- and within-person associations with pleasant-activated feeling states.

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Department of Kinesiology, Aaron L. Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA.


Physical activity is a widely accessible and effective tool for improving well-being. This study aimed to unpack the feel-good effects of free-time physical activity. Multilevel models were applied to repeated measures of daily free-time physical activity and four types of feeling states obtained from 190 undergraduate students. Physical activity was not associated with pleasant-deactivated, unpleasant- activated, or unpleasant-deactivated feelings. People who were more physically active overall had higher pleasant-activated feelings than people who were less physically active, and on days when people were more physically active than was typical for them, they reported higher levels of pleasant-activated feelings. Both the between- and within-person associations remained significant after controlling for day of week, sleep quality, and carryover effects of previous day free-time physical activity and feeling states. Results suggest that both increases in overall levels and acute bouts of free-time physical activity are associated with increases in feelings of pleasant-activation.

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