Information about the Exercise Psychophysiology Laboratory.


Dog ready for a walkThe Exercise Psychophysiology Laboratory (ExPPL) conducts research in the general area of Exercise Psychology. We are particularly interested in the effects of physical activity on emotional and cognitive health. Traditionally, the study of exercise psychology has focused almost exclusively on the psychological aspects of such physical activity with little concern for the physiological changes that likely mediate these psychological changes. In the ExPPL, we study the interaction of psychological and physiological processes in the context of exercise and physical activity by utilizing a psychophysiological perspective. We utilize a theory-based, multi-level integrative perspective, using psychophysiological, self-report, and behavioral methodologies to address the research questions being studied. To this end, the ExPPL is equipped with instruments for the recording of electroencephalographic (EEG) and electromyographic (EMG) activity, as well as computer-based systems for the assessment of self-report and behavior.

Generally, research in the ExPPL involves the examination of the role of exercise, encapsulated along a physical activity continuum ranging from low-to-moderate forms of exercise (e.g., walking, cycling, running) to vigorous exercise (e.g., competitive swimming, running) and physical activity performed in extreme environments (e.g., firefighting), on a variety of psychological outcomes, including basic effect, fatigue/energy, anxiety, and depression. Across this continuum, research in the ExPPL is aimed at a more complete understanding of the psychophysiological effects that such exercise/physical activity has on the individual. This includes not only an understanding of the pre-to-post exercise changes that take place but also an understanding of the in-task changes that occur. Ultimately, this research is aimed at developing a better understanding of how exercise makes people feel in order to enhance adherence to such activity. To this end, the following questions drive the research:

  • How does exercise influence the way people feel after they have finished (e.g., do they feel exhilaration, distress, fatigue, or boredom)?
  • How does exercise influence the way people feel during the exercise?
  • How do individuals differ in terms of their preference for and tolerance of different levels of exercise intensity and does that preference/tolerance influence how they feel?
  • How do these factors influence the enjoyment of exercise and the motivation to stay in an exercise program over the long haul?
  • How is cognitive functioning (e.g., decision-making ability) impacted by exercise in extreme conditions?

Perhaps most importantly, research in the ExPPL is aimed at determining psychophysiological mechanisms underlying the effects of exercise on these affective and cognitive changes.

Our Principal Investigator is Steven J. Petruzzello.

Check out the tabs below or click here to visit our website to learn more.

Exercise Intensity-Brain Activity-Affect

We examine, using different samples and exercise modalities, whether resting regional brain activation is predictive of affective responses to acute bouts of exercise. This provides evidence supporting:

  1. The notion that regional brain activation can serve as a biological marker of a predisposition to respond to affective stimuli (e.g., like exercise) and
  2. The idea that aerobic exercise can indeed be an emotion-eliciting stimulus.

Research also examines: whether ongoing brain activation is reflective of current affective states; whether both of these measures change as a function of acute exercise; and other psychophysiological measures of effect in an attempt to provide converging evidence.

Exercise Intensity-Enjoyment

An examination of the exercise-enjoyment relationship by manipulating exercise intensity and also examining the extent to which individual differences play a role in determining/influencing such a relationship.

Health and Wellness

Firefighters fire fightingThis project is in conjunction with the Illinois Fire Service Institute

We examine objective (muscular endurance, flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, body composition) and subjective (perceived fitness, perceived health and well-being) in recruit firefighters at the beginning and end of a 6-week training course that includes a fitness training component. To date, over 250 individuals have been tested in this ongoing study.

Heat Stress/Firefighting studies

We have been interested in determining the psychophysiological effects of performing demanding physical activity in hot, hostile environments, including

  1. Examination of individual difference factors and whether such factors might be able to predict those individuals more likely to experience difficulties when performing heavy physical work in the heat.
  2. Effects of different rehabilitation strategies on the recovery from such demanding activity.
  3. How cognitive function is influenced by such activity.

Some of these studies have been recently funded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH).