As technology advances and offers enjoyable sedentary alternatives to sport, active recreation, and transportation, there is a growing need to understand and harness the drivers of physical activity and exercise among children and adolescents. Determining how youth perceive their physical capabilities and their opportunities and what motivates them to be physically active can provide essential information for teachers, coaches, youth leaders, and program planners who are interested in promoting physical activity. Several well-established and also more recently developed behavioral theories offer numerous avenues to gaining a better understanding of the perceptions and motivation of youth with respect to physical activity and exercise behavior, including the social ecological model, social cognitive theory, self-determination theory, habit theory, dual-process theory, and nudge theory, among others.
Children and adolescents have individual characteristics that influence their perceptions, motivations, and behavior. They also exist within a multilayered ecological context that helps to shape those perceptions, motivations, and behavior. For youth to be sufficiently physically active and thereby help to reach their full potential, the environment must be conducive to consistent routines of physical activity. Such an environment can be designed to provide easily accessible and enjoyable opportunities for youth to fulfill their basic psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence to be physically active. There is potential for technology to contribute positively toward the design of conducive environments, and toward fostering motivation and enjoyment of exercise and physical activity among children and adolescents.
Rebecca K. Dickinson, Tristan J. Coulter, and Clifford J. Mallett
As a basic psychological framework, humanistic theory emphasizes a strong interest in human welfare, values, and dignity. It involves the study and understanding of the unique whole person and how people can reach a heightened sense of self through the process of self-actualization. The focus within humanism to encourage and foster people to be “all they can be” and develop a true sense of self links to a strengths-based approach in sports coaching and the defining principles of positive psychology. In the field of sport and performance psychology, positive psychology has been influential as a discipline concerned with the optimal functioning and human flourishing of performers. Since the 2000s, many sport and performance psychologists have embraced positive psychology as a theoretical basis for examining consistent and superior human performance. However, in the modern history of psychological science, positive psychology is not a new phenomenon; rather, it stems from humanism—the traditional “third wave” in psychology (after the dominance of psychoanalytic and behaviorist approaches).
Sport is recognized as a potentially influential context through which people at all levels and backgrounds can thrive. The tendency to focus on performance outcomes, however—winning and losing—often overshadows the potential of sport to achieve this aspirational goal. As evidence of this view, many high-performing athletes are commenting on their distressing experiences to reach the top and the “culture of fear” they have been exposed to as they pursue their own and others’ (e.g., institutional) ambitions (e.g., medaling at the Olympic Games). Humanism concerns itself with the quality of a person’s life, which includes, but also extends beyond such objective and classifying achievements. It is a person-centered approach to understanding the individual and his or her psychological, emotional, and behavioral reality. It seeks to help people define this reality more clearly in such a way that will help them feel good and perform at a high level. Humanism has been, therefore, an important school of thought for improving the lives and experiences of people who play sport as well as those who perform in various other contexts.
Sayaka Aritake-Okada and Sunao Uchida
Research indicates that both acute and chronic physical activity improve sleep. Effects on sleep include prolongation of total sleep time, slow wave sleep increase, rapid eye movement sleep decrease, wake after sleep onset reduction, and shortened sleep latency. However, detailed biological mechanisms of these effects have not been well elucidated.
Past studies strongly suggest that the sleep-promoting effect of exercise could be multifactorial. Increase of slow wave sleep, which has been repeatedly reported, strongly suggests physical activity effects on central nervous system function. Physical activity also elevates body temperature, alters glucose, and impacts other metabolic regulations. Habitual exercise also alters autonomic nervous system predominance measured by heart rate variability.
Aaron L. Slusher and Edmund O. Acevedo
Physical activity is essential for optimal human functioning. However, the emergence of modern lifestyle conveniences has contributed to the increased prevalence of sedentary behavior. As a result, the psychobiological nature of physical activity and the positive impact of physical activity on body and brain communication has prompted investigators to utilize a breadth of research strategies and techniques to identify physical activity regimes, associated mental health benefits, and the plausible mechanisms that explain the mental health adaptations. Furthermore, investigators have provided evidence supporting a number of mechanisms that at least partially explain the psychological adaptations to acute (a single bout) and chronic (long-term) physical activity intervention. Through these efforts, the observed efficacy of physical activity as a potential therapeutic intervention strategy to ameliorate the most prevalent mental disorders (i.e., anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia), and to enhance mental illness-related and age-related impairments of cognitive function has received some attention in the literature and will likely lead to clarity and confidence for clinical use.
Athletes’ transition out of elite sport has drawn the attention of psychologists in view of the number of problems retired athletes face with which they are generally unprepared to cope. Research over the past decades has revealed that athletic retirement should not be viewed as a dead-end stop but rather as a process of transition. The quality of this transition is influenced not only by the pre- and post-retirement phases but also by the challenges retiring elite athletes have faced at different levels of their development. Using the holistic athletic career model, challenges faced by retiring athletes are described at the athletic, psychological, psychosocial, academic, vocational, financial, and legal levels of their development. Particular attention is paid to the influence of these multilevel challenges on retirees’ mental health. In conclusion, the roles of psychologists in preparing and supporting elite athletes during the transition out of their sport are considered.
Yeshayahu Hutzler and Joelle Almosni
Persons with intellectual disability (ID) exhibit reduced levels of participation in recreational and habitual physical activity, which leads to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and resulting medical and psychosocial burdens. In spite of their cognitive limitations, persons with ID are able to benefit from utilization of learner-centered approaches to physical activity participation. Several theoretical models, including social cognitive theory (SCT), self-determination theory (SDT), and constructivism, are helpful for explaining the benefits of internalizing learning within the framework of physical activity in persons with ID. Peer modeling, decision-making for leisure (DML), divergent production style (DPS), and the cycle of internalization (CIL) are practical teaching models focusing on internalizing learning experiences and developing an intrinsic motivation for action in the physical domain. These models have been successfully practiced in persons with ID, and their feasibility and effectiveness was established particularly for developing autonomy and social relatedness. In this article the theoretical constructs and the research literature pertaining to SCT, DML, DPS and CIL is reviewed, enabling to synthesize perspectives on how to integrate these models within residential, vocational or community based physical activity programs for persons with ID. Utilizing such models and practices may facilitate persons with ID developing an internalized motivational approach to participation in physical activity and therefore be beneficial for reducing risk factors, keeping fit and enhance quality of life. Staff members in community residences and homes for persons with ID as well as in day-care and vocational centers, should be encouraged to utilize such models as an alternative to the widely used directive teaching model following the behaviorist approach.
Anthony C. Hackney and Eser Ağgön
Stress is encountered by every individual on a daily basis. Such encounters can be of a negative (distress) or a positive (eustress) nature. Excessive and chronic distress exposure is associated with numerous health problems affecting both physiological and psychological components of a person’s well-being. One mediating aspect of these occurrences is the responses of the neuroendocrine system with the body. Physical activity (i.e., exercise) produces large and dramatic changes in the neuroendocrine system as it serves as a “stressor” to the system. To this end, though, chronic engagement in physical activity leads to exercise training-induced adaptations within the neuroendocrine system that potentiate an individual’s ability to deal with distressful experiences and exposures. Therefore, becoming more physically fit and exercise trained is one potential adjunctive therapy available for clinicians to recommend in the treatment of health problems associated with chronic exposure to distress.
Christopher M. Bader and Scott B. Martin
As a field of study, sport psychology is relatively young, gaining its formalized start in the United States in the 1920s. Then and now, the practice of sport psychology is concerned with the recognition of psychological factors that influence performance and ensuring that individuals and teams can perform at an optimal level. In the past 30 years, sport psychologists have made their way into intercollegiate athletics departments providing mental health and performance enhancement services to intercollegiate student-athletes. The differentiation between mental health practice and performance enhancement practice is still a source of some confusion for individuals tasked with hiring sport psychology professionals. Additionally, many traditionally trained practitioners (in both mental health and performance enhancement) are unaware of the dynamics of an intercollegiate athletic department. The interplay of the practitioner and those departmental dynamics can greatly influence the efficacy of the practitioner.
Gene M. Moyle
Literature regarding supervision and related supervisory and training models applied within the field of sport, exercise, and performance psychology (SEPP) has grown exponentially as the field continues to define and redefine itself. A range of supervision models from mainstream psychology has been explored and applied within SEPP settings, with research indicating that regardless of the preferred model of supervision, a key component of effective supervision is the supervisor’s knowledge and skills related to the area of service delivery.
Whilst the supervision of psychologists-in-training within performing arts settings presents similar challenges faced by those working in sport and exercise settings, the social, cultural, and artistic considerations embedded within these performance contexts necessitates a nuanced approach. The provision of supervision for psychologists within performing arts (e.g., dance, music, acting) requires scaffolded learning opportunities that assist the practitioner to gain an in-depth understanding of the context, including how to best tailor, translate, and communicate psychological concepts and skills to their clients that will address their unique challenges and meet their distinctive needs. Furthermore, clarity regarding the roles and responsibilities of the supervisee within the organizational context of an artistic setting is vital to ensuring that effective and ethical service delivery can be provided.
Laura D. Ellingson and Christopher D. Black
Exercise is known to exert an influence on pain. Specifically, sensitivity to pain decreases both during and following a single bout of exercise—a phenomenon that has been termed exercise-induced hypoalgesia (EIH). EIH has been shown to occur following a variety of types of exercise including aerobic, dynamic resistance, as well as intermittent and continuous isometric exercise, and with a variety of types of pain stimuli including pressure, thermal, and electrical, among others. Depending upon the type of exercise, the intensity and duration of the exercise bout may affect the magnitude of EIH observed. EIH also may be influenced by presence of chronic pain. In individuals with chronic pain conditions, exercise can have both hypo- and hyperalgesic effects, again depending on the specifics of the exercise stimulus itself.
The mechanisms underlying EIH have not been definitively established. However, a number of potentially viable mechanisms have been examined including: release of stress mediators such as adrenocorticotrophic hormone and growth hormone (GH), stimulation of the endogenous opioid system, interactions between the pain modulatory system and the cardiovascular system resulting from shared neurological pathways, activation of the endocannabinoid (eCB) system, and engagement of supraspinal pain inhibitory mechanisms via conditioned pain modulation (CPM). There is also some evidence that psychosocial factors, including pain-related beliefs like catastrophizing and expectation, may influence EIH.
Research in EIH has several important implications for research and practice. In healthy adults, reduced sensitivity to pain is a salient benefit of exercise and EIH responses may play a role in exercise adherence. For chronic pain patients, research on EIH has the potential to uncover mechanisms related to maintenance of chronic pain. Improving our understanding of how and why hyperalgesia occurs following exercise in these patients can aid in understanding central nervous system mechanisms of disease maintenance and ultimately may help to avoid symptom exacerbation with exercise. However, there remain practical and mechanistic questions to be examined. Translating reductions in pain sensitivity that occur with exercise under controlled laboratory conditions to situations that are more naturalistic will be an important next step for promoting physical activity as a treatment for pain.