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Affect-guided interval training

Prioritizing pleasure and restoring autonomy by allowing exercisers to choose their intensity


  • Zachary Zenko
  • Eric E. Hall
  • Walter R. Bixby



affect, high-intensity interval training, autonomy, self-selected exercise


This registered report tested the effects of a novel exercise protocol, namely affect-guided interval training, on motivationally relevant variables of remembered pleasure, forecasted pleasure, enjoyment, and autonomy. Affect-guided interval training (AIT) consisted of 60-second intervals that alternated between the highest pleasant intensity and lowest pleasant intensity for 20 minutes; this was intended to minimize the potential displeasure of traditional high-intensity interval training. The novel protocol was compared to self-selected exercise intensity (30 minutes) and high-intensity interval training (60-second intervals for 20 minutes). All sessions were, on average, vigorous in intensity (80-89% peak heart rate). Data indicate that the AIT session was experienced as most pleasant, had the most pleasant slope of affect, was remembered as most pleasant, resulted in the most positive affective forecasts, and was most enjoyable. Both the affect-guided interval session and self-selected exercise session resulted in greater autonomy than high-intensity interval training. Remembered pleasure, enjoyment, and forecasted pleasure were predicted by experienced pleasure, the pleasure experienced at the end of exercise, and the slope of pleasure. Overall, this study suggests that affect-guided interval training is a feasible and pleasant alternative that can be included as a viable option for exercise programming. 


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