Wellbeing and Exercise Laboratory
Led by assistant professor Jacob Meyer
The Wellbeing and Exercise Laboratory conducts research on the effects of exercise, physical activity and sedentary time on psychological health and wellbeing. Dr. Meyer’s approach spans multiple levels of analysis, from looking at population-level associations between exercise behaviors and mental health, to evaluating the psychobiological effects of acute and chronic exercise in mental health conditions, particularly depression.
This research involves both acute exercise studies that evaluate the immediate and short-term effects of movement as well as chronic training studies that look at changes in movement behaviors over weeks to months and beyond. All of this research is designed to:
- Better understand the illnesses that activity can influence and the mechanisms underlying these relationships
- Help people see and use the beneficial effects of movement for the health and wellbeing
Major Research Topics
Exercise in Depression
Meyer’s research looks specifically at how exercise can influence depression. In past work, he found that the intensity of a single exercise session wasn’t related to mood state improvements post-exercise that depressed patients felt – if people sat quietly their mood improved, but if they exercised at either a light, moderate or hard intensity for 20 minutes their depressed mood reduced to a greater degree up to 30 minutes after exercise. If targeting short-term mood benefits of exercise in patients with depression, a specific intensity may not be required for people to feel better – people felt similarly (and better!) after the light, moderate and hard intensity sessions. Further work has shown that this may be related to the release of endocannabinoids that can occur with exercise, highlighting a potential mechanism relating exercise to depression.
Selected Works Include:
- Meyer, J., Koltyn, K., Stegner, A., Kim, J., & Cook, D. (2016). Influence of Exercise Intensity for Improving Depressed Mood in Depression: A Dose-Response Study. Behavior Therapy, 47(4), 527-537. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2016.04.003
- Meyer, J., Crombie, K., Cook, D., Hillard, C., & Koltyn, K. (2019). Serum Endocannabinoid and Mood Changes after Exercise in Major Depressive Disorder. Med Sci Sports Exerc., 51(9), 1909-1917. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002006
- Gordon, B., McDowell, C., Hallgren, M., Meyer, J., Lyons, M., & Herring, M. (2018). Association of Efficacy of Resistance Exercise Training With Depressive Symptoms: Meta-analysis and Meta-regression Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. JAMA Psychiatry, 75(6), 566–576. doi: 1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.0572
- Meyer J, Schuch F (2018). Exercise for the Prevention and Treatment of Depression. In B Stubbs & S Rosenbaum (Eds.), Exercise-Based Interventions for People with Mental Illness. The Netherlands, Elsevier.
Current Research Projects
The laboratory uses a variety of tools to accomplish its research objectives. A Lode Recumbent bicycle and various metabolic measurement systems, heart rate, blood pressure and other monitoring devices, are used to measure the body’s responses to exercise. A Medoc Pathway Pain & Sensory Evaluation System is used to assess pain sensitivity and processing in a highly-controlled manner to evaluate the acute effects of exercise on pain and the long-term effects of interventions on pain processing. Biological samples are processed and stored in local -80 °C freezers until processing via ELISA or multiplex assays. E-prime and other cognitive testing software are used to measure executive processing and working memory. Various types of Fitbits™, Actigraph™ and activPAL™ activity monitors allow for free-living activity monitoring outside of the laboratory providing measurements of behavior throughout the full 24-hours. Many other pieces of equipment for exercise, biological processing and more, are available in the Kinesiology department and used for projects when needed.
Dr. Meyer is the principal investigator for the laboratory, and works with a team of research staff, graduate, and undergraduate students to accomplish the laboratory’s research goals. In addition, Dr. Meyer collaborates with local/national companies and additional investigators at Iowa State, the University of Wisconsin, and across the globe. Students in this laboratory work on all aspects of the research from project development to IRB submission to study recruitment, participant visits, data management, data analysis and more.