A comprehensive book in exercise psychology for undergraduate students

Peter Carlman
Karlstad University

Curt L. Lox, Kathleen A. Martin Ginis, Heather L. Gainforth & Steven J. Petruzzello
The Psychology of Exercise: Integrating Theory and Practice. Fifth Edition
428 pages, paperback.
Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge 2020
ISBN 978-0-367-18680-7

Exercise is an important topic in contemporary society, and since the turn of the century there have been recurring alarming reports about decreasing levels of physical activity and increasing sedentary behavior leading to overweight and obese children and adults. This has contributed to an increased focus on promoting exercise and movement, and the fifth edition of The Psychology of Exercise: Integrating Theory and Practice is a contribution to this field. The book is comprehensive in its content and covers many of the main topics in exercise psychology.

The Psychology of Exercise is written primarily for undergraduate students, and this is characterized in its composition. Every chapter, for example, is followed by “What do you know?” questions and learning activities. The book is divided into two main sections, the first being “Understanding and modifying exercise behavior” which deals with definitions of key concepts, physical activity epidemiology, theories for understanding exercise behavior, and developing exercise interventions. The second part of the book is “Psychosocial influences and consequences of exercise” which explores contemporary subjects related to exercise such as personality, self-perception, stress, anxiety, depression, emotional well-being, cognitive function, and health-related quality of life. Overall, The Psychology of Exercise integrates theory and practice across a broad spectrum of topics associated with exercise behavior.

The highlight of this book for undergraduates is the material about developing exercise interventions which presents significant and useful theories, models, and practical examples for the design, implementation, and evaluation of these interventions in different settings. additionally, the first section of the book about understanding and modifying exercise behavior is well suited to undergraduate students; the text is clearly written in appropriate language. In particular, the key concepts are easily accessible, and the theories are clarified with relevant practical examples. The second section about the psychological and social aspects of exercise does not have the same strengths as the first for an undergraduate audience. The structure and lucidity of the language is not adapted to undergraduate students in the same way as previous material; the content is more technical, and the concepts are not explained as clearly. Furthermore, more illustrative examples could have been integrated into the text.

This book is a very good introduction to these theories, but for both broader and deeper knowledge and understanding, it would be appropriate to consult other sources.

A further reflection is that the research presented in The Psychology of Exercise unilaterally concerns individual activities (e.g. running, cycling, walking, and weight lifting). There seems to be a lack of research regarding, for example, team or racket sports which may have implications for the book’s conclusions. One such conclusion is that “if you can carry on a conversation while exercising, the intensity is not too high. Such types of exercise will likely result in positive (or at least not negative) experiences during and following the exercise, thus increasing the likelihood that the exercise will be performed again.” However, could the opposite be true for team and racket sports? The principles behind those kinds of exercise may be that they become boring and meaningless without high intensity. A further contribution to the field could therefore be research into the different values of different activities that puts exercise in its social and cultural context to extend our understanding of why people exercise (or not).

The target audience for The Psychology of Exercise is anyone who wants to achieve an overall picture of the field. For anyone wishing to immerse themselves in specific exercise behavior topics, it would be better to consult primary research sources or narrower and more specified texts. For example, the theories presented under “Understanding and modifying exercise behavior” are traditional perspectives that have been presented in many works over the years. This book is a very good introduction to these theories, but for both broader and deeper knowledge and understanding, it would be appropriate to consult other sources.

As a result, this book can be recommended for undergraduate students and as a teaching aid in exercise behavior courses, and it would be useful across programs with different perspectives, for example health promotion, sport management, coaching, public health, or physical education. The Psychology of Exercise would also be a valuable resource for practitioners aiming to get people physically active and promote health in public, corporate, and school settings, and the content would be useful at micro and macro levels. Furthermore, the topics covered are current and the text would therefore be interesting to the wider population and individuals with a general interest in exercise and physical activity.

The Psychology of Exercise: Integrating Theory and Practice is a pertinent contribution to the field of exercise behavior, interventions, and consequences. In particular, the pedagogical structure and clarity makes the book an appropriate teaching aid on undergraduate courses in exercise behavior.

Copyright © Peter Carlman 2020

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