Cycling outdoors facilitates external thoughts and endurance

Agne Slapsinskaite, Sergi García, Selen Razon, Natàlia Balagué, Robert Hristovski, Gershon Tenenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives The aims of this study were twofold: (a) to compare the effects of indoor and outdoor environments on cycling endurance and thought dynamics, (b) to investigate a possible link between cycling endurance and the adherence to task-unrelated thoughts (TUT) in both environments. Design: An experimental, within-subject design with two-trial random assignment was used. Methods Participants (n = 13) cycled at constant power until volitional exhaustion while imposing TUT. They reported thought changes using self-selected key words that were subsequently classified based on task-relatedness (TUT, and task-related thoughts (TRT)) and direction (internal, external). Mean values of relative time spent in TUT and TRT categories were computed and compared for 5 equal time intervals. The association between cycling endurance and time spent at each thought-related category was analyzed. Results Analyses revealed a decrease of TUT and an increase of TRT as a function of time (spent cycling) in both environments. Three qualitative thought phases emerged: an initially stable TUT phase was followed by a metastable phase characterized by shifts between TUT and TRT, and a final stable TRT phase appeared nearing exhaustion. Participants cycled longer outdoors than indoors Moutdoors = 12.54 min, SEM = 2.17 s, Mindoors = 11.35 min, SEM = 1.52 s (Z = −2.27, p < 0.05, d(95% CI) = 0.56 (−0.80, 3.07)), with a dominance of external thought categories. Cycling endurance seemed to be facilitated by TUT-E outdoors and TRT-I in both types of environments. Conclusion Outdoor environment resulted in improved cycling endurance and greater use of external thoughts (i.e., dissociative attentional strategy) relative to indoor environment. The effectiveness of thought categories seemed contingent upon their stability, which in turn depended on effort accumulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-84
Number of pages7
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention focus
  • Environment
  • Static cycling
  • Thought dynamics
  • Volitional exhaustion

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology


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