Despite the well-known anxiolytic effect of acute exercise, it is unknown if anxiety reductions after acute exercise conditions survive in the face of a subsequently experienced arousing emotional exposure. The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of moderate-intensity cycle ergometer exercise to a seated rest control condition on state anxiety symptoms after exposure to a variety of highly arousing pleasant and unpleasant stimuli.
Thirty-seven healthy and normally physically active young adults completed two conditions on separate days: 1) 30 min of seated rest and 2) 30 min of moderate-intensity cycle ergometer exercise (RPE = 13; "somewhat hard"). After each condition, participants viewed 90 arousing pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral pictures from the International Affective Picture System for 30 min. State anxiety was measured before and 15 min after each condition, and again after exposure to the affective pictures.
State anxiety significantly decreased from baseline to after the exercise and seated rest conditions (P = 0.003). After the emotional picture-viewing period, state anxiety significantly increased to baseline values after the seated rest condition (P = 0.001) but remained reduced after the exercise condition.
These findings suggest that the anxiolytic effects of acute exercise may be resistant to the potentially detrimental effects on mood after exposure to arousing emotional stimuli.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Physical activity (PA) has been shown to benefit mental health. While research on non-human animal species indicates that PA may confer protective effects on mental health by increasing resilience to stress via regulation of the stress response, the human literature offers inconsistent evidence regarding this idea. To help reconcile these inconsistencies, the present study of human adults tested the hypothesis that PA’s protective effects, as indexed by self-perceived resilience, vary according to individual differences in trait anxiety, which has been linked to a dysregulated stress response and risk for developing mental health problems. Specifically, we predicted that individuals reporting high trait anxiety (and thus presumably more stress response dysregulation) would show a stronger association between PA and self-perceived resilience, than would peers with lower reported trait anxiety.Methods
Undergraduate students (n=222) completed online self-report measures regarding their PA level, trait anxiety, and self-perceived resilience.ResultsHierarchical linear regression analyses yielded evidence of a significant interaction between trait anxiety level and PA, such that PA and self-perceived resilience were significantly and positively associated among individuals with high trait anxiety, but not among individuals with low and moderate trait anxiety.DiscussionIn conclusion, individuals with high trait anxiety, which may be a risk factor for developing clinically significant mental health problems, may preferentially show psychological, as well as physiological, benefits from PA.
Mental Health and Physical Activity 11/2014; 8. DOI:10.1016/j.mhpa.2014.10.001
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