Sport and exercise psychology research is much more than helping elite athletes hit more home runs or run faster, says Jeffrey Martin, PhD, of Wayne State University in Detroit. High obesity rates have spurred an explosion of studies on how physical activity can aid weight loss. Sport and exercise psychologists are also generating great research on the link between physical activity and cognition, and exploring how exercise may boost immunity and affect disease management.

“Because of the health implications of exercise, researchers are recognizing that it’s a really important area and might have more societal benefits than only focusing on athletes,” he says.

APA is seeking to capture the best of this research, as well as more traditional sport studies, in Sport, Exercise & Performance Psychology, its first sport and exercise psychology journal and the official publication of APA’s Div. 47 (Exercise and Sport). The journal will debut in spring 2012 with Martin as editor.

Several other journals cover sport psychology, but Sport, Exercise & Performance, will be the first to include a focus on performance psychology, or the study of how to enhance performance on the job, in sport and fitness and in the performing arts, says Martin. Performance psychology is brimming with exciting possibilities, he says, such as research on how physical activity can help firefighters, police officers and military personnel perform their jobs better, or how these groups use mental strategies similar to those athletes rely on to maintain their focus and composure.

His own research area — disability sport — provides one example. Martin studies swimmers with cerebral palsy, wheelchair rugby and basketball players and children with spinal-cord injuries who do martial arts. While they are often small samples, athletes with disabilities have much to offer the literature, and also need sport psychology strategies tailored to their specific needs, he says. Martin has also looked at how sport benefits children with disabilities, particularly minority children. He has found that children with disabilities who play sports struggle far less with loneliness and making friends than those who don’t.

Shaping a new journal is challenging, but Martin is used to perseverance. He was a professional marathon runner before he entered graduate school, running 40 marathons around the world, and winning 12 of them.

“My goal is that when I am done with this editorship, this journal will be perceived as the publication people will think about first for their sport and exercise psychology work.”

For more information, go to Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology.