Interoceptive sensitivity and physical effort: Implications for the self-control of physical load in everyday life


  • We thank Prof. Dr. Ursula Hess and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions and comments on our manuscript.

Address reprint requests to: Beate M. Herbert, Department of Psychology, Biological Psychology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, Leopoldstr. 13, 80802 Munich, Germany. E-mail:


This study examined the relationship between interoceptive sensitivity and the behavioral self-regulation of physical load. According to their performance in a heartbeat detection task, 34 participants were classified as good or poor heartbeat perceivers. Participants pedaled on a bicycle ergometer for 15 min and were free to choose the tempo of their cycling. Good heartbeat perceivers covered a significantly shorter distance and showed a significantly smaller increase in mean heart rate, stroke volume, and cardiac output. There were significant negative correlations between heartbeat perception score and covered distance, changes in heart rate, changes in stroke volume, and changes in cardiac output. These results were not explained by differences in physical fitness level (PWC150). The findings suggest that good heartbeat perceivers show a more finely tuned behavioral self-regulation of physical load than poor heartbeat perceivers.