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Kinesiology and Community Health :: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
College of Applied Health Sciences


The Exercise Psychophysiology Laboratory (ExPPL) provides essential research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students. Laboratory experiences are also available for Kinesiology undergraduate majors as an opportunity to expand the student’s theoretical and practical understanding, develop unique and innovative research skills, and foster their intellectual growth through the research process.

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 affect, 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.
Ongoing ExPPL research includes the following:

Research Projects

  • Exercise Intensity-Brain Activity-Affect—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: (a) 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 (b) 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 affect in an attempt to provide converging evidence.
  • Exercise Intensity-Enjoyment—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—in conjunction with the Illinois Fire Service Institute
    • Project examines 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 (a) the 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; (b) the effects of different rehabilitation strategies on the recovery from such demanding activity; and (c) 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).

Recently Completed Research

Published Research

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