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Research Psychology of Physical Activity

Current Projects

Research Themes






Please use this chart to note which research themes are present in our current projects.  More information about each theme can be found at our research themes page.


Research Themes Mindfulness


The Role of Mindfulness in Yoga

With the help of the yoga instructors at the University of Idaho, we investigated the role that mindfulness during the practice of yoga may play in predicting positive psychological outcomes. These outcomes included body image variables and different reasons for exercise. Participants completed a survey assessing all outcome variables at the beginning and end of an 8-week yoga course at the University.  In addition, yoga participants were also given a survey immediately following a class at the beginning and end of the eight weeks to gauge how mindful they were during their practice and how much they were thinking about their appearance. Results showed positive changes over time in body image variables, health and fitness reasons for exercise, and mindfulness. We also found that mindfulness during yoga was linked to the improvement in body image and internal reasons for exercise over time. You can find more information about this project in our Research Blog.

Research Themes Mindfulness in Children

Assessing State Mindfulness in Children and Adolescents

Extending the laboratory’s research and development of the State Mindfulness Scale for Physical Activity (SMS-PA), this project examines the measurement of state mindfulness in physical activity contexts for children. The State Mindfulness Scale for Physical Activity is a revision of The State Mindfulness Scale (Tanay & Bernstein, 2013) and measures state attention and awareness to the mental and physical aspects of a physical activity experience. Two studies address this issue. First, children (N = 15) ages 8-14 participated in a brief yoga session followed by an interview. The interview assessed comprehension of the SMS-PA items (developed for adults) and utilized a think aloud protocol to assess the process of responding to each item. Additionally, we assessed items that were modified to be more developmentally appropriate for children. In our second study, we collected quantitative data assessing state mindfulness and motivational and affective constructs in a sample of middle school students. Students either received the original SMS-PA or the child modified version of the SMS-PA. Collectively, we will use the empirical evidence from these studies for future recommendations on how and for what age groups state mindfulness can be assessed.

Research Themes PHS

Testing the Effects of a High School Physical Education Yoga Curriculum

We developed and implemented a 12-week yoga curriculum in a high school physical education class. A certified yoga instructor led the class two times per week intentionally fostering mindfulness, self-compassion, and a growth mindset. A traditional physical education class served as a comparison class. We assessed state mindfulness and state engagement weekly to examine how the yoga experience impacts changes in body image, physical self-perceptions and physical activity motivation, fitness outcomes, stress, self-compassion, trait mindfulness and executive functioning. All outcome variables were assessed with survey instruments at the beginning, mid-point and end of the 12 weeks. In addition, all classes were video-recorded and will be content-analyzed to examine the degree to which the curriculum was implemented. Finally, students participated in focus group interviews at the conclusion of the 12 weeks and provided in-depth responses to complement the quantitative assessments. We hope to use the results of this study to inform the development of future yoga-based programming or mindfulness interventions.


Research Themes Body Image


Body Image Workshops

Body image is an issue of concern for sorority women. We developed an hour long Acceptance and Commitment Therapy-based workshop for sororities to help identify group values and committed action that align with those values. We explore sources of maladaptive body image in the sorority context and use an activity-based approach to involve the participants in the process of increasing mindfulness and clarifying what is important and how to stay on track with a positive and supportive context that allows all women to feel comfortable in their own bodies. We have implemented this workshop with various groups, although it was developed for the sorority context. Please contact the lab directors if you are interested in learning more about the workshop or would like to schedule a workshop.

Research Themes SelfCompassion


Self Compassion and Psychological Flexibity Associations with Body-Related Emotions

Body conscious emotions play a role in the regulation of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (Tracy & Robins, 2007), it is therefore important to explore resilience factors that may help explain how we manage or experience body-related emotions of guilt, shame, anxiety, and pride. Two resilience factors were explored in the current study. The first is self-compassion which reflects an adaptive way of interacting with oneself that involves being kind and understanding in times of personal failings rather than judgmental and critical (see Neff, 2003). Core elements of being compassionate include noticing suffering, responding with understanding and kindness, and placing that suffering as part of the human experience. The second resilience factor, psychological flexibility, represents nonjudgmental and adaptive interactions one has with their own thoughts and emotions and context (Hayes et al., 1999; Hayes et al., 2006). Psychological flexibility is considered a core component of positive psychological functioning based on the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy perspective (Hayes et al., 2006). A young adult sample (N = 432) participated in an online survey assessing these constructs. We found that self-compassion and psychological flexibility associated with body-related emotions, supporting adaptive emotional experiences with greater self-compassion and psychological flexibility.

Research Themes SelfCompassion

Focus Groups Exploring Adolescent Self-Compassion

Self-compassion reflects an adaptive way of interacting with oneself that involves being kind and understanding in times of personal failings rather than judgmental and critical (see Neff, 2003). Core elements of being compassionate include noticing suffering, responding with understanding and kindness, and placing that suffering as part of the human experience. As a relatively new construct in Western research, very little research has explored self-compassion in adolescence. We therefore conducted three focus groups of high school students to study the adolescent perspective on self-compassion. We had two main goals. The first goal was to explore whether the self-compassion scale, developed with adult samples, resonated with an adolescent sample. The second goal was to identify examples of how each element of self-compassion played out in the lives of adolescents.

Psychology of Physical Activity Laboratory
Smith Gym 213-A

Department of Educational Leadership, Sport Studies, and Educational/Counseling Psychology
Washington State University
Pullman, WA  99164