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ARS Home » Plains Area » Grand Forks, North Dakota » Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center » Healthy Body Weight Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #331303

Research Project: Dietary Guidelines Adherence and Healthy Body Weight Maintenance

Location: Healthy Body Weight Research

Title: The reinforcing value and liking of resistance training and aerobic exercise as predictors of adult’s physical actively behavior

item Flack, Kyle
item JOHNSON, LUANN - University Of North Dakota
item Roemmich, James

Submitted to: Physiology & Behavior
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/25/2017
Publication Date: 10/1/2017
Publication URL:
Citation: Flack, K.D., Johnson, L., Roemmich, J.N. 2017. The reinforcing value and liking of resistance training and aerobic exercise as predictors of adult’s physical actively behavior. Physiology and Behavior. 179:284-289.

Interpretive Summary: Reinforcing behaviors are those that one is willing to work for. Natural reinforces, such as food, water and sex, have evolved to exist in all living things. Research has focused on other reinforcing behaviors that are present in today’s society such as alcohol, drugs of abuse and gambling, although many other behaviors can be reinforcing. The common link all reinforcing behaviors share is that they stimulate brain dopamine, considered the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, which causes these behaviors to be reinforcing. A behavior’s reinforcing value is a great motivator for engaging in that behavior, such that individuals are more likely to engage in the behavior if it is reinforcing. Another motivator to engage in a behavior is how much someone likes the behavior, as we are more likely to engage in behaviors we enjoy. However, it has been shown that in reinforcing behaviors such as alcohol and drug use, gambling and eating, liking does not influence engaging in these behaviors to the extent the reinforcing value of these behaviors does. For example, an alcoholic may no longer like to drink but they are driven to drink because alcohol’s reinforcing value is strong. Exercise is a reinforcing behavior to some people. This study investigated how one’s reinforcing value of exercise and how much one likes exercise influences exercise participation. It was determined that an individual’s reinforcing value of aerobic exercise is a strong driver in engaging in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, while liking of aerobic exercise did not influence exercise behavior. Similarly, one’s reinforcing value of resistance exercise (lifting weights) is a strong driver of resistance exercise behavior while liking of resistance exercise did not influence behavior. This means that the reinforcing value of aerobic and resistance exercise are stronger predictors than how much an individual likes to engage in aerobic and resistance exercise. Thus, simply liking exercise is not enough to be motivated to do it, whereas individuals who find exercise highly reinforcing are likely to exercise regardless if they like it or not. This study argues that future research should find ways to make exercise more reinforcing if we want to increase exercise participation.

Technical Abstract: Background: Reinforcing value is a stronger predictor than hedonic value (liking) for engaging in drug use, gambling, and eating. The associations of reinforcing value and liking with physical activity of adults have not yet been studied and may depend on the mode of exercise available during exercise reinforcement testing. The purpose of this study was to test associations of the reinforcing value and liking of modes of exercise with usual participation in aerobic and resistance exercise in adults. Methods: Men (n=38) and women (n=50) were measured for the relative reinforcing value (RRV) and liking of aerobic exercise training (AT) and resistance exercise training (RT), for moderate-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), and for usual resistance exercise behavior (Yale physical activity questionnaire). Results: The RRV of AT (RRVAT) and liking of AT were correlated, (r=0.22, p<0.04), as were the RRV of RT (RRVRT) and liking of RT (r= 0.42, p<0.01). RRVAT (p<0.01) was positively associated with MVPA. RRVRT (p'0.01) was positively associated with RT behavior. Neither liking of AT or of RT were associated (p>0.30) with MVPA or RT behavior. Conclusion: Exercise reinforcement is a stronger predictor of AT and RT than hedonics of AT and RT.