Physical activity and interoceptive processing: Theoretical considerations for future research

Author: Amie Wallman-Jones1, Pandelis Perakakis2, Manos Tsakiris3, Mirko Schmidt4
1 Institute of Sport Science, University of Bern, Switzerland. Electronic address:
2 Department of Social, Organisational, and Differential Psychology, Complutense University of Madrid, Spain.
3 Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK; Department of Behavioural and Cognitive Sciences, Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences, University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg.
4 Institute of Sport Science, University of Bern, Switzerland.
Conference/Journal: Int J Psychophysiol
Date published: 2021 May 6
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2021.05.002. , Word Count: 183

Interoception, defined as the sense of the internal bodily state, plays a critical role in physical, cognitive, emotional and social well-being. Regarding physical well-being, contemporary models of exercise regulation incorporate interoceptive processes in the regulation of physical exertion. Top-down processes continuously monitor the physiological condition of the body to ensure allostasis is maintained, however, flagged perturbations also appear to influence these higher order processes in return. More specifically, enhancing one's physiological arousal by means of physical activity is a viable way of manipulating the afferent input entering the interoceptive system, appearing to optimise the integration of early sensory stimulation with later affective responses. Despite this, the relationship between physical activity and top-down regulation is underrepresented in interoceptive research. We here address this gap by integrating findings from different disciplines to support the overlapping mechanisms, with the hope of stimulating further research in this field. Developing our understanding of how interoceptive processes are shaped by physical activity could hold significant clinical implications considering the impact of interoceptive deficits to mental health and well-being.

Keywords: Body-awareness; Embodiment; Exercise; Interoceptive accuracy; Self-regulation.

PMID: 33965423 DOI: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2021.05.002