Stress-Reducing Effect of Acute Exercise Persists

Anxiolytic effects of exercise resistant to exposure to negative or arousing emotional stimuli

THURSDAY, Sept. 20 (HealthDay News) -- The anxiety-lowering effect of exercise seems to persist even after exposure to emotional stimuli, according to a study published online Aug. 14 in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Using data from 37 healthy and normally physically active young adults, J. Carson Smith, Ph.D., from the University of Maryland in College Park, compared the effects of moderate intensity exercise with a seated rest control condition on symptoms of state anxiety after exposure to pleasant and unpleasant stimuli. Participants completed two conditions on separate days: 30 minutes of seated rest and 30 minutes of moderate intensity cycle ergometer exercise, and then spent 30 minutes viewing 90 arousing, pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral pictures. Before and 15 minutes after each condition, and following exposure to the pictures, state anxiety was assessed.

The researchers found that, from baseline to after both the exercise and seated rest sessions, there was a significant decrease in state anxiety. Following the emotional picture viewing period there was a significant increase in state anxiety (to baseline values) after the seated rest condition, whereas after the exercise condition, state anxiety remained reduced.

"These findings suggest the anxiolytic effects of acute exercise may be resistant to the potentially detrimental effects on mood after exposure to arousing emotional stimuli," the author writes.

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