Running head: SELF-CONTROLLED AND INSTRUCTOR-GUIDED WORKOUT 1
Effect of Spinning Workouts on Affect
Attila Szabo, Zoltán Gáspár, Nikolett Kiss, Alexandra Radványi
Institute of Health Promotion and Sport Sciences
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
This is a pre-publication, uncorrected version of the manuscript: Szabo, A., Gáspár, Z., Kiss,
N., & Radványi, A. (2015). Effect of spinning workouts on affect. Journal of Mental Health,
24(3), 145-149 doi:10.3109/09638237.2015.1019053
Correspondence about this article should be addressed to dr. habil. Attila Szabo, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor and Acting Director, Institute for Health Promotion and Sport Sciences,
Faculty of Education and Psychology, Eötvös Loránd University, 1117 Budapest, Bogdánfy
u. 10, Hungary. E-mail: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
Background: Numerous physical exercises trigger positive changes in affect after relatively
short workouts. Spinning, also known as indoor-cycling, is a very popular form of exercise,
especially among women, but its impact on affect was not examined to date.
Aims: The purpose of the current work was to investigate the possible benefits of spinning on
affect in self-controlled and in instructor-led exercise sessions.
Methods: Using baseline measures and pre- to post-exercise design with a psychometrically
validated questionnaire, the net effects of spinning (without music) on positive- and negative
affect were measured in two exercise conditions: 1) self-controlled workout (i.e., without an
instructor), and 2) instructor-led workout. After both conditions 18 women rated the extent
which they enjoyed the exercise session on a 10-point Likert scale.
Results: The findings revealed that positive affect increased while negative affect decreased
after both workouts. Exerted effort, measured through the heart rate, did not differ between
the two conditions. However, participants enjoyed more the instructor-led exercise session
than the self-regulated workout (effect size, Cohen's d =.93).
Conclusions: This research reveals that spinning improves post-exercise affect, even without
music and regardless of instructor's presence. Therefore, it demonstrates the net mental health
benefits of this popular exercise.
Keywords: endurance training, exercise performance, motivation, physical activity, training
SELF-CONTROLLED AND INSTRUCTOR-GUIDED WORKOUT 1
It is a consensus that a single bout of exercise improves affect (Anderson & Brice,
2011; Dasilva et al., 2011; Szabo, 2003a), which is a mental state that reflects how an activity
or a particular situation impacts the person (Duncan & Barrett, 2007). The benefits of a single
workout on affect were previously observed in different exercises, including: dance aerobics
(Rokka et al., 2010), Nordic walking (Stark et al., 2011), running (Hoffman & Hoffman,
2008; Szabo, 2003a), shadowboxing (Li & Yin, 2008), swimming (Valentine & Evans, 2001),
taekwondo (Toskovic, 2001), tai chi (Wang et al, 2010), walking (Dasilva et al., 2011), and
yoga (Streeter et al., 2010). Spinning, also referred to as exercise biking or indoor cycling, is
ranked among top ten most popular sports among women (Sport England, 2012). However,
the effects of spinning on affect were not examined to date.
Most explanations forwarded for the affect-mediating effects of a single bout of
exercise are based on exercise volume. Popular physiological models are the endorphin
hypothesis (Dunn & Dishman, 1991; Hoffmann, 1997), the amine hypothesis (Dunn &
Dishman, 1991), and the thermogenic hypothesis (Koltyn, 1997). A more recent explanation
relies on a dual mode model (Ekkekakis & Acevedo, 2006). Accordingly, changes in affect
due to exercise result from the interaction of cognitive appraisal of the exercise situation and
the subjective perception of physiological changes during exercise. In spinning, both the
presence and characteristics of music, as well as the presence and the motivating power of an
instructor may influence the subjective evaluation of the exercise situation, having an impact
on the emerging post-exercise affect.
An inverted-U relationship may be observed; positive changes in affect emerge below
the ventilatory threshold and negative responses above it (Ekkekakis & Acevedo, 2006). Yet,
the second part of the model―pertaining to the intensity of exercise(s)―may be questionable.
A number of past investigations have revealed that exercise characteristics have little role in
mediating the psychological benefits (Rendi et al., 2008; Szabo, 2003a; Szabo & Ábrahám,
2012). Research has also demonstrated that an equal-to-exercise duration, low- or no-effort
activity, like mindful exercises, music, or humor trigger identical, or greater, changes in affect
than exercise (Netz, & Lidor, 2003; Szabo, 2003b; Szabo et al., 1998; Szabo et al., 2005).
More recently, the placebo effect was also linked to the acute changes in affect after
exercise (Szabo, 2013). The placebo may mediate both the cognitive appraisal of the exercise
situation and the perception of exercise characteristics of the dual mode model. In spinning,
for example, expectations associated with the instructor and workout could influence the post-
exercise affect, at least in part, via placebo effects. In this context, it should be appreciated
that the appraisal and perception of various exercise bouts are affected by past experiences in
both healthy and clinical samples (Mason & Holt, 2012).
In line with the dual mode model mentioned above, the appraisal of exercise intensity
influences affect. Since spinning is a high intensity exercise, that usually is performed above
the ventilatory threshold (López-Miñarro & Muyor Rodríguez, 2010; Piacentini et al., 2009),
according to this model it should generate no positive changes in affect. Spinning is,
however, a popular exercise that is usually performed in fitness centers under the direction of
an instructor and accompanied by music. In lack of positive affect, its popularity would be
doubtful. However, both the music and the instructor could influence one's affect that may be
independent of exercise. Therefore, to assess the "net" effect of a bout of spinning exercise
on affect it is essential to remove the instructor (and the music, because music alone has
significant influence on affect (Szabo et al., 2005)) from the exercise environment. The
removal of both could result in less enjoyable spinning sessions, and lesser positive changes
in affect, but can reflect the genuine impact of the exercise.
SELF-CONTROLLED AND INSTRUCTOR-GUIDED WORKOUT 2
The current exploratory research tested: (a) the "net" effect of spinning on affect, (b)
the impact of the instructor's presence on changes in affect after spinning, and (c) the level of
enjoyment of the spinning session with and without an instructor.
Clients of a large university-affiliated extramural spinning class were approached and
requested to take part in the investigation. As an incentive for participation, a summary of the
group results was offered to them. Considering that spinning classes are most popular among
women (Reeves, 2012; Sport England, 2012) and the attendees of spinning class were women,
only female participants were tested. At the beginning, 20 women have agreed to participate
in the study from a pool of 24. However, data from one was incomplete and another potential
participant did not show up for the second test. Consequently, the final sample consisted of
18 consenting women aged between 19 to 27 years (M = 21.39, SD = 2.06). All participants
were Caucasian university students. They all spoke the same first language (Hungarian) and
trained with identical frequency and duration during scheduled spinning classes. The research
was conducted in full accord with institutional as well as international ethical regulations and
guidelines (The British Psychological Society, 2010; World Medical Association Declaration
of Helsinki, 2008).
The Positive Affect Negative Affect Scale (PANAS - Watson et al., 1988) was used
for the assessment of affect. We adopted the 20-item psychometrically re-validated
Hungarian version of the scale (Gyollai et al., 2011). The scale consists of 10 positive items
(i.e., alert, active) and 10 negative items (i.e., nervous, upset). Each item is rated on a 5-point
Likert scale ranging from 1 (very slightly or not at all) to 5 (very much). A total score is then
obtained for both positive and negative items. The here adopted version of the PANAS has
excellent psychometric properties (Gyollai et al., 2011). The internal reliability of the current
scale was (Cronbach's alpha) .82 for positive scale items and .83 for negative scale items.
We have also employed a 10-point Likert scale, ranging from 0 (not at all) to 9 (very
much) to determine the level of subjective enjoyment of both, the instructor-driven and self-
directed work sessions.
For measuring the heart rates during exercise, we used Polar RS400 heart rate (HR)
monitors, consisting of chest-band recorder and a wrist-computer receiver. The RS400
receiver unit is compatible with PCs via an IrDA USB adapter. Its recording features include
actual and summary measures, adjustable recording rates (at 1s, 5s, 15s, or 60s), a memory
left indication, individual exercise files, and weekly history. The unit records HR accurately
and displays it in beats per minutes and also as percentages (%) of the maximum heart rate.
After consenting to participation, volunteers were tested in counterbalanced sessions
using a within-participants design. Half of them worked out without an instructor in the first
session and the other half with the instructor, who dictated the exercise pace. The instructor
was a qualified female aerobic fitness instructor with special accreditation and several years
of experience in leading spinning classes. A second test session was performed exactly one
week later in reverse order. Before exercise, participants completed the PANAS.
SELF-CONTROLLED AND INSTRUCTOR-GUIDED WORKOUT 3
Subsequently, like during ordinary spinning classes, we fitted them with a heart rate monitor
using a chest-band electrode and the RS400 receiver. After calibration, participants started
spinning for 35 minutes that also included 2-3 min warm-up and cool-down periods. Apart
from usual environmental stimuli, there was no interaction between the class-participants.
Since music modifies affect (Szabo et al., 2005), and could act as an extraneous variable, no
music was played during the test sessions. Within five minutes after the workout, participants
completed the PANAS again and rated the level of enjoyment of the exercise session. Heart
rate monitors were collected for determining maximal and average heart rates during exercise.
The workloads were calculated in terms of percentage of maximal heart rate.
We have coded and then recorded the gathered data into an SPSS (Version 17.0) file
for subsequent statistical analyses. Due to the relatively low sample size, we adopted the less
powerful, less sample-size sensitive, and under the situation more reliable Wilcoxon signed-
rank non-parametric tests. When statistically significant results emerged on the basis of this
test, we have also calculated the means- and standard deviations-based effect sizes (Cohen's
d). We used an alpha level of .05 for all statistical tests.
To check the comparability of baseline measures in the two conditions, we performed
Wilcoxon signed-rank tests for positive- and negative affect before (at baseline) instructor-led
and self-controlled exercise sessions. These tests were statistically not significant neither for
positive affect, Z = -1.26, p = .21, nor for negative affect, Z = -0.70, p = .94.
The second set of non-parametric tests were used to test the null hypothesis that no
changes in affect occur from pre- to post-exercise in either instructor-led or self-controlled
exercise session. The results, however, revealed that positive affect has increased statistically
significantly (Table 1) after both sessions, Z = -1.94, p = .05, d = .39 (with the instructor) and
Z = -2.09, p = .03, d = .41 (without the instructor) respectively, and negative affect decreased
after the two exercise bouts, Z = -2.25, p = .02, d = .38 (with the instructor) and Z = -3.20, p =
.001, d = .91 (without the instructor), respectively.
Next, to determine whether the changes noted in affect were different in magnitude
between the instructor-led and self-controlled exercise sessions, we calculated difference
scores by subtracting the post-exercise values from pre-exercise (baseline) scores. The
difference scores for negative and positive affect were then tested with Wilcoxon signed-rank
tests. No differences in the magnitude of spinning-induced changes were seen neither in
positive- nor in negative affect, Z = -0.28, p = .78, and Z = -0.81, p = .42, respectively.
Results for measures of affect in the two exercise sessions are summarized in Table 1.
The comparison of the perceived enjoyment levels of the instructor-led and self-
controlled exercise sessions were also compared with a Wilcoxon signed-rank test. The
results revealed that participants enjoyed more the instructor-driven session than the self-
controlled spinning session, Z = -3.11, p = .002, d = .93 (Table 1). Effort estimates, in terms
of the percentage of maximal heart rate, were calculated for both sessions. The indices of
exercise effort were also contrasted between the two sessions by using the Wilcoxon signed-
rank test. There were no statistically significant differences in any of the following measures:
peak heart rate, average heart rate, and percent of the maximal heart rate (Table 2).
SELF-CONTROLLED AND INSTRUCTOR-GUIDED WORKOUT 4
Means and standard deviations of psychological measures in two 35-minutes spinning
Free spinning, self-controlled
Spinning with the
Positive affect before spinning
Positive affect after spinning*
Negative affect before spinning
Negative affect after spinning*
Difference (Δ) or change scores
from pre- to post-exercise
in positive affect
Difference (Δ) or change scores
from pre- to post-exercise
in negative affect
Ratings of enjoyment of the
Notes. *Statistically significantly different p < .05 from the above row or pre-exercise values,
and ** statistically significantly different p < .05 from the right column value for instructor-
led exercise session.
Means and standard deviation of physiological measures in two conditions.
Free spinning, self-
Spinning with the
Average heart rate
Peak (maximal) heart
Average percent (%)
of maximal heart rate
Note. No statistically significant differences have emerged between the two exercise sessions.
The present findings reveal that a bout of spinning exercise triggers positive changes
in affect. This is clearly a net effect that occurs without the invigorating and arousing effects
of music and that is evident even in the absence of the instructor. Considering that spinning is
one of the most popular exercises among women (Reeves, 2012; Sport England, 2012), its
impact on affect could have important relevance for mental health from both preventive and
SELF-CONTROLLED AND INSTRUCTOR-GUIDED WORKOUT 5
These results may appear controversial in light of the extant knowledge. For example,
Ekkekakis and Petruzzello (1999) reviewed about 200 studies and concluded that high
intensity workout has negative impact on affect. In the current research only crude measures
of exercise intensity were taken, but both heart rates and percent maximal heart rate (Table 2)
were in the range of vigorous intensity exercises (Mayo Clinic, 2011). Further, the observed
improvements in both positive- and negative-affect were seen despite the removal of music
(and instructor in one session) from training. It is possible that completion of exercise yields
psychological satisfaction that in combination with placebo effects (expectation to feel good
after exercise) may trigger changes in affect. It should be highlighted, that while the changes
were significant in all instances, the effect sizes were small to moderate except for negative
affect in the self-directed session in which a large effect size was revealed. It is possible that
initial disappointment, caused by removal of both music and instructor, caused a pre-exercise
increase in negative affect that was counteracted via a positive appraisal of a good workout.
Finally, spinning is a phased-interval exercise in which the person has control over resistance
on the spinning bike. These factors could facilitate the generation of positive affect unlike in
other forms of high intensity exercises. Indeed, it was reported that high-intensity interval
running is more enjoyable than moderate-intensity continuous exercise (Bartlett et al., 2011).
The participant-controlled exercise workload was not different from the instructor-led
session. There are two explanations for this finding. The first is that memory-based recall of
the habitual exercise workload was adopted to set the pace of the workout in the absence of an
instructor (and music). The second is that in a co-exercising environment, participants follow
the others, that is both motivating and effort-determining, supporting the Köhler motivation-
gain effect repeatedly observed in exercise and sport settings (e.g., Irwin et al., 2012).
The robust result revealing that participants enjoyed more the instructor-led workout
affords two tentative explanations. The first plausible conjecture is that the mental strategies
were different in the two conditions. Indeed, in the self-directed exercise participants had to
adopt internal association whereas with a continuous attentional focus on the instructor the
alternative session comprised predominantly external association (Stevinson & Biddle, 1998).
Further, under instructor's guidance, participants could be more relaxed and not worry about
the maintenance of their work pattern. Paying attention to the instructor and harmonizing the
movement to her guidance "forces" external association. The latter cognitive strategy has
been shown to be the most economical and least strenuous in identical modalities of exercise
(Neumann & Brown, 2013), that could be linked to the level of enjoyment of the exercise. A
second possible explanation may be that class-participants were conditioned to the instructor-
guided exercise classes and felt more relaxed and/or comfortable with the instructor who was
seen not only as a facilitator but also as a motivator of the classes.
Limitations of the Study
While exercise intensities, as based on heart rate measures, were in the high intensity
range in general, in the current study, they were imprecise since intensity was not determined
in relation to the participants' fitness level. Further inquiries should define exercise intensity
in relation to one's aerobic capacity. In the current study, we were interested in the net effect
of spinning and, therefore, removed the music that is played during spinning classes. Further
studies should compare affect after spinning in music and no-music situations to demonstrate
the external validity of the results and to determine whether music has an additional effect on
SELF-CONTROLLED AND INSTRUCTOR-GUIDED WORKOUT 6
The current research contributes three findings: (a) A single bout of spinning exercise
triggers positive changes in affect; (b) The benefits in affect emerge in lack of music as well
as instructor, therefore, they reflect the net effect of the spinning exercise; (c) The presence of
the instructor increases the enjoyment level of the spinning workouts. The implication of the
research is that spinning, one of the most popular leisure exercises among women, has mental
health benefits that are manifested in the acute improvement of affect.
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