Exemplary handbook of exercise psychology – “a solid piece of work”


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Erwin Apitzsch
Department of Psychology, Lund University


Edmund O. Acevedo (red)
The Oxford Handbook of Exercise Psychology
523 sidor, inb.
Oxford: Oxford University Press 2012 (Oxford Library of Psychology)
ISBN 978-0-19-539431-3

The Oxford Handbook of Exercise Psychology provides a scientifically based overview of the current status of the subject area and directions for future research. Altogether 36 authors, mainly from North America, contributed to the content.  The book is divided into 23 chapters constituting six parts:

  1. Context, Issues, and Perspectives in Exercise Psychology,
  2. Exercise Psychology and Mental Health,
  3. Exercise Psychology and Psychological Perspectives,
  4. Psychology of Exercise Motivation,
  5. Exercise Psychology in Special Populations, and
  6. Exercise Psychology: On the Horizon and into the Future.

Each chapters starts with an abstract, continues with a state-of the-art of the reviewed topics, and ends with a summary/conclusion, and, in some chapters, with directions for future research.

Overall, I have a very good impression of this book. It covers the main areas of exercise psychology, provides the current knowledge base, and points at the need for further knowledge. Although there is redundancy between some chapters, this is motivated in order make it possible to read the different chapters independently, and I regard this as a strong point in this book. I also agree with the Editor-in-Chief that the book serves a diverse audience, ranging from researchers to practitioners. Another strength is the ambition to provide practical guidelines on the basis of current knowledge, and not only state that more research is needed. Not all, but ten chapters have subheadings, which point out areas for further research. We obviously know a lot about exercise psychology, but it is just as obvious that we have much more to learn.

In this respect, I would like to mention the chapter entitled “Exercise is a Many-Splendored Thing, but for Some It Does Not Feel so Splendid: Staging a Resurgence of Hedonistic Ideas in the Quest to Understand Exercise Behavior” by Ekkekakis and Dafermos, which was the highlight of the book for me. The authors state that cognitive models account for less than 25% of the variation in physical activity behavior, which means that most of the variance remains unexplained. This leads them to the importance of affective processes in decision making, where humans tend to do what makes them feel better and avoid what makes them feel worse. As a consequence, forthcoming studies must include the affective experience of physical activity. The authors conclude that the foundation has now been laid for the development of a hedonic theory of exercise behaviour.

In the reference list in chapter 12, entries with an asterisk have been marked as a recommendation for further reading. I think that is an excellent approach, especially for those who are not fully familiar with the topic; in fact it should be adopted in all handbook publications.

My critical comments are very few. The title of the fifth part is “Exercise Psychology in Special Populations”. The chapters in this part deal with children, older adults, persons with disabilities, and cancer patients. Why are these categories of people labeled “special”? I would suggest using “selected” populations instead. I am also concerned about the use of “recent” when referring to research published back in 1988 (p. 248). There is no general convention on what “recent” means in terms of number of years. In my opinion “recent” should be reserved for publications not older than five years, because there is also a time lag between the data collection and the publication of research.

The editorial work is done in a very careful way. I have only detected two errors. One name is misspelt – Bidle shall read Biddle (p. 247), and on one occasion space between two words is missing.

The Oxford Handbook of Exercise Psychology is a solid piece of work, and once published online and continually updated, will provide a valuable source for everyone interested in exercise psychology.

Copyright © Erwin Apitzsch 2013

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