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Exercise is an important health behavior. Expressed reasons for participation are often delayed outcomes i.e. health threats and benefits, but also enjoyment. However, we do not know how people evaluate exercise as a reward. The value of rewards diminish the longer we have to wait for them and the discounting effect can undermine decision-making. Here, we investigated delay-discounting of exercise perception and its valuation with time delays; we conducted self-paced exercise sessions on treadmill and compared the discounting rates of exercise (kex) with those of established rewards of food (kfo) and money (km). Outcomes show, that young, moderately active participants (n = 70) preferred walking/running intensity with low to moderate cardiovascular strain and light perceived exertion. Delay discounting rates (k) indicated that exercise was discounted like other consumable rewards at the same rate as food and more rapidly than monetary rewards. Significant associations were detected of kex with preferred speed and with extrinsic exercise motivation. Exercise training (n = 16) reduced kex specifically, not affecting kfo. Our studies show, that participants perceived and discounted self-paced walking/running like a consumable reward. Exercise discounting was quicker in individuals who preferred lower speeds being less physically active and exercise training reduced the decay rate of exercise specifically.


  • Exercise, Discounting, Reward, Motivation, Perception, Food
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-342
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Early online date4 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019

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