Individuals can be sensitized to the reinforcing effects of exercise, although it is unknown if this process increases habitual exercise behavior. Sedentary men and women (body mass index: 25–35 kg/m2, N = 52) participated in a 12-week aerobic exercise intervention. Exercise reinforcement was determined by how much work was performed for exercise relative to a sedentary alternative in a progressive ratio schedule task. Habitual physical activity was assessed via accelerometry. Post-intervention increases in exercise reinforcement predicted increases in physical activity bouts among those who expended over 2000 kcal per week in exercise and who compensated for less than 50 percent of their exercise energy expenditure.

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Published in Journal of Health Psychology.

© The Author(s) 2020

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All raw data associated with the present trial (ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT03413826) are available upon request.