AR Moore
M Olson


Andrew R. Moore, Maddie Olson. Augusta University, Augusta, GA.

BACKGROUND: During exercise, the rate at which time appears to pass is distorted. This effect is often attributed to increases in physiological arousal. Psychological responses to exercise also play a role in time perception changes and can vary substantially from person to person. The purpose of this study was to see if time perception differed between exercise intensities of high and low affective valence. METHOD: A total of 23 healthy, untrained men and women (25.8 ± 4.2 years, 175.9 ± 9.1 cm, 78.0 ± 11.04 kg) completed a VO2peak test on Velotron cycle ergometer, starting at 40 Watts (W) and increasing by 30 W every 3 min until exhaustion. During each stage, subjects completed a series of time estimation tasks (2, 3, 5, 7, and 10 seconds) and then reported their affect using the 11-point Feeling Scale. The scale goes from “-5, very bad” to “+5, very good” so that a greater value indicates more positive feelings. The time estimation ratio (actual time divided by estimated time) was calculated for the stage at which affect was lowest (LOW) and highest (HIGH). Affect values and time estimation ratios were compared between LOW and HIGH using paired-samples t-tests. The analyses were performed using SPSS version 27 with an alpha level of .05. RESULTS: Affect was significantly greater for HIGH (2.78 ± 1.51) than for LOW (-0.39 ± 1.70), t(22) = 10.61, p < .001, d = 2.21. Time estimation ratio during LOW (1.215 ± 0.319) was significantly greater than during HIGH (1.096 ± 0.276), t(22) = 2.44, p = .023, d = .51. CONCLUSION: Subjects experienced a significant and substantial change in affect throughout the course of the exercise test. These differences in affect were associated with changes in the subjective perception of time. During exercise at an intensity characterized by a lower affect (more negative feelings), chronological time was perceived to “fly by” faster than exercise at intensities characterized by a higher affect. This was possibly due to the greater distraction effect of unpleasant sensations of exercise, which would divert attention from the time estimation task per the attention allocation model. Time is distorted more when exercise is considered unpleasant or negative compared to when more positive feelings are elicited. This finding may be valuable for creating personalized exercise prescription programs that assist with long-term adherence.

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