Background Extensive research has established a clear positive relationship between physical activity (PA), even in small amounts, and psychological well-being, including benefits for emotional and mental health (e.g., decreased depression). However, little research has examined the relationship between PA and decision-making within emotionally ambiguous contexts. The purpose of the present cross-sectional study was to examine the relationship between reported amount and intensity of PA and interpretations of emotional ambiguity. Methods Adults (n = 611) recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk were assessed on their interpretations of ambiguous and clear (unambiguous) emotional stimuli and reported habitual PA and exercise. Results More positive ratings of ambiguity were associated with greater amount of vigorous activity (p = .002), but not with moderate activity (p = .826) or walking (p = .673). Subsequent analyses demonstrated that this relationship between vigorous PA and positive interpretations of ambiguity was most pronounced when comparing individuals who reported any amount of vigorous PA to those who reported no vigorous activity at all. Conclusions Our findings suggest that higher amounts of vigorous, but not moderate, PA are associated with more positive interpretations of ambiguity, and that even small amounts of PA seem to be sufficient to promote this more positive valence bias when compared to individuals conducting no vigorous PA at all. Future work should examine the longitudinal effects of PA among individuals participating in structured activity programs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)