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					Running head: EFFECTS OF EXERCISE ON ANXIETY                     1

                          Effects of Exercise on Anxiety

                   Kari Brown, Zach Oglesby, and Keith Padgett

                                Hanover College

                     PSY 220: Research Design and Statistics

                                  Winter 2010
EFFECTS OF EXERCISE ON ANXIETY                                                                    2


       This study was designed to examine the effects of exercise on anxiety. Participants

(N=24, 71% male) were split into a high intensity exercise group, low intensity exercise group

and a control group. The high intensity group ran six laps on the track, the low intensity did

yoga, and the control group leisurely read a magazine. We expected people in the high intensity

group would display lower levels of anxiety after exercising than the low intensity and control

group. There was not a significant difference found among the three groups when referring to

anxiety, p= .790


       Today, exercise plays a role in many people's daily lives. With the emphasis on looking

good that is projected by society through magazines, television and the creation of new diets

exercise is portrayed to be an important aspect within society. Not only is looking good an issue,

but there are many health issues that come with not exercising. In the 1970's, when the running

or jogging craze" began, many people began to notice the positive effects, both physically and

mentally, that running caused (Kerr & Vlaswinkly, 1990). For example, exercise has been

suggested to lower anxiety and stress, which are contributing factors to coronary heart disease

(the number one killer of Americans). High levels of anxiety also increase the chance of obesity

(Pozuelo & Zhang, 2008).

       Some positive effects that come from exercising are the lowering of anxiety and stress

levels a person may be feeling and just increasing their well-being over all (Norris, Carrol &

Cochrane, 1990). Anxiety is defined as an “apprehensive anticipation of future danger or

misfortune accompanied by a feeling of dysphoria or somatic symptoms of tension” (Diagnostic
EFFECTS OF EXERCISE ON ANXIETY                                                                    3

and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 2000). According to Comandena in the

Encyclopedia of Human Emotions, “The twentieth century has been labeled „The Age of

Anxiety.‟” Some large scale causes of anxiety could be the threat of nuclear war, biological

weapons, global warming, and AIDS. Anxiety can also be caused by some small scale reasons

such as the day to day anticipation of what lies ahead, increasing need for technology and

money, and just feeling out of control (Comadena, 1999). Thinking about all these factors puts a

lot of stress upon one‟s body, both physically and mentally.

       Although exercise, in general, helps decrease the level of anxiety a person may be

feeling, it can be broken into two broad categories. Within the two categories, high-intensity and

low-intensity, there are many different ways to go about exercising. Quicker movements that

increase heart rate are considered high-intensity. Some examples are running and turbo kick.

Low-intensity could be defined as slower movements and less of it. Some examples are

beginner‟s yoga, Tai‟ Chi, and light weight lifting, where it is more focused on breathing and

stretching than quick movements. Although exercise in general shows to lower anxiety levels,

high-intensity has been shown to be a better means of lowering anxiety levels over longer

periods of time than low-intensity (Norris, et al, 1990). Also, in comparison to anti-anxiety

medication, high-intensity exercise has a similar effect on lowering anxiety levels over a long

period of time whereas low-intensity has a small effect that does not equal up to that of

medication or high-intensity exercise (Raglin & Morgan, 1987). When doing our experiment, we

expected similar solutions of high-intensity exercise decreasing anxiety levels much more

efficiently than low-intensity exercise or no exercise at all.
EFFECTS OF EXERCISE ON ANXIETY                                                                      4



       Twenty- four interested students from the Hanover College campus signed up to

participate in a thirty minute session for the study. The subjects, who were gained through a

convenient sample, consisted of freshmen to seniors. 71% of the participants were males, while

29% were females. Also, 96% were Caucasian and 4% were African American. The ages

ranged from 18-22.


       For this experiment, we used clips from the P90X Yoga workout along with three yoga

mats for the low-intensity condition. The video consisted of ten minutes of light stretching and

breathing exercises. The high-intensity participants utilized the Horner Center indoor track on

the Hanover College campus. The Beck Anxiety Inventory (Adult Version) was issued to all the

participants. This inventory consisted of 21 symptoms that are associated with stress ranging on

a scale from 0 to 3 (0 meaning not symptom at all and 3 meaning severely-it bothered a lot) that

the participant had been feeling within the last 24 hours. Some examples are feeling terrified or

afraid, unsteady, unable to relax, and face flushed.
EFFECTS OF EXERCISE ON ANXIETY                                                                       5


       All of the participants were given an informed consent to begin the experiment. Each of

them then received half of The Beck Anxiety Inventory. After filling out the survey, the

participants were assigned to three different experimental groups (control, high-intensity, and

low-intensity). The high-intensity group ran six laps (approximately ten minutes) around the

track. The low-intensity group participated in the first ten minutes of the P90X yoga workout

(mainly breathing exercises and stretching). The control group read the popular men‟s

magazine, Esquire. All groups then were given the other half of the first questionnaire. Each

condition was concluded with a distributing a debriefing form to each participant.


       To determine whether exercise decreased anxiety, participants were randomly assigned to

partake in an activity of either low or high intensity exercise, or a control condition. The anxiety

of all participants was measured both before and after the activity. Anxiety was analyzed using a

3 (condition: low, high, or control) by 2 (time: pre vs post) mixed factorial design with repeated-

measures on the second factor. The expected interaction between time and condition was not

significant, F(2,21) = .811, p = .458. In the low intensity group, anxiety increased from 4.63 to

5.38, in the control group, anxiety increased from 4.00 to 6.78, while in the high intensity group

anxiety decreased from 6.43 to 6.29. Tests of simple main effects indicated that there was no

significant change between time 1 and time 2 in any condition at p = .09 - .94.
EFFECTS OF EXERCISE ON ANXIETY                                                                     6

Figure 1. Mean changes in anxiety scores for low intensity, high intensity, and control groups.


       We hypothesized that higher intensity exercise would decrease a person's anxiety more

than lower-intensity exercise or no exercise would. Our results show that while high intensity

exercise resulted in a greater decrease in anxiety than low intensity exercise or our control group,

these results were not significant. Although our results were not significant, our findings are

similar to those in a study that involved the psycholoigical functioning of athletes whom exercise
EFFECTS OF EXERCISE ON ANXIETY                                                                      7

many hours throughout the week compared to people who exercise very little throughout the

week that was conducted by Brand et al. (2009). This study found that athletes who spent 17.69

hours exercising were more psychologically stable (more in control of their emotions caused by

some factors such as stress and anxiety) then the participants who spent only 4.69 hours

exercising (Brand et all., 2009). Another article explains why exercise helps decrease the levels

of anxiety and stress a person may be feeling. In an article written by Psychologyists Kerr and

Vlaswinkel (2002) mentions that diminishing stress can be explained by the monoamine

hypothesis where an individual relates feeling better through neurotransmitters such as

norepinephrine and serotonin to a decrease in anxiety. When a person exercises, these

neurotransmitters are released. This idea contributes to the idea that exercise can decrease levels

of anxiety (Kerr & Vlaswinkel, 2002). Even though we found no significant difference between

high intensity and low intensity workouts and their effect on levels of anxiety, we can compare

our findings with those that have found significant results that support our hypothesis. Our

hypothesis was that aerobic (high intensity) exercise would have a greater effect of reducing

levels of anxiety than anaerobic (low intensity) exercise.


       Conducting our study on the Hanover College campus limits us to a small sample size

from only one demographic. Hanover students are generally between the ages of 18-22,

Caucasian, and from middle class families. This limits the external validity of our study in

regards to being able to generalize our results due to the isolated sample. Also, people who do

exercise or do not mind exercising are more likely to have participated in our study.
EFFECTS OF EXERCISE ON ANXIETY                                                                        8

       The duration of our study also may have had an impact on the results of study. Our

study was based on participants exercising only once rather than over a longer period of perhaps

ten weeks; this shortened duration of time prevented us from gathering more accurate data. In

addition, our method of measuring anxiety may have affected our results. The Beck Anxiety

Scale asked questions that were meant to pertain to events over the course of a month prior to

filling it out. It was also not designed to be split into portions that would then be given at

different times, let alone ten minutes apart from each other as we decided to do. This in

combination with our decision to ask participants only to apply the past day rather than month to

the questions they filled out on the scale (which was a decision that was made in attempt to

counteract the effects of splitting the anxiety scale into two parts) most likely diminished its

effectiveness. By having each participant take half of the Beck-Anxiety scale, then performing

for ten minutes in their condition and then filling out the other half of the anxiety test directly

after, there was not much time to experience the overall effect of the three different conditions on


                                           Future Direction

       For future direction, we would increase the amount of participants from 24 to one that is

more representative of the population we are trying to measure. We would try to make is

divisible by three so the statistics would be somewhat more reliable. Also, we would like to

have a more equal representation of both genders, so we could better understand if gender plays

a role in the effect of exercise on anxiety.
EFFECTS OF EXERCISE ON ANXIETY                                                                      9

       We would also prolong our experiment and study the long term effects of the exercise on

anxiety. By conducting our study over a year or longer, results may be more sufficient and

reliable. Also if we were to do future studies of this topic, we would supply each participant a

workout schedule and provide them with different high-intensity and low-intensity workouts,

rather than just one aspect of each. For example, high-intensity participants could run for an

extensive of time at a faster pace, do Turbo Kick, heavy weight lifting, or do quick sprints. The

low-intensity group could participate in longer yoga workouts, T‟ai Chi, walking long distances,

or light weight lifting. Through the prolonged experiment, we would strive to support aerobic

exercise has a more positive effect on increasing a person‟s well-being (such as lowering anxiety

levels, emotion control, and happiness) more efficiently than anaerobic exercise, much like the

results of the study done by Norris, Carrol, and Cochrane (1990).

       We would still use the Beck Anxiety Scale to measure anxiety, but it would be used how

it was made to be used. The scale would measure over the past month and at the end we would

distribute the same survey to each participant that they received prior to the study. Then we

would create a mixed design to observe whether there is an interaction or not. It would not be

split up into two sections that measure the day before and during exercise.

               For our final direction, we would change the means in which we tested the control

group. Reading certain magazines can lead to maybe an increase and a decrease in anxiety.

Some articles in different magazines can remind people of certain stressors on their lives, as well

as alleviate others anxiety by reading articles that can comfort them. We would attempt to find a

gender neutral activity for our control group to participate in.
EFFECTS OF EXERCISE ON ANXIETY                                                                     10


       In conclusion, our hypothesis that aerobic (high-intensity) exercise increases anxiety

levels at a more efficient rate than anaerobic (low-intensity) exercise or no exercise at all can be

supported by outside sources, but our findings show the interaction not to be significant. If we

prolonged this study, our results may differ. Exercise has not only been shown to decrease

anxiety and stress levels, but it also has been shown to decrease one‟s chance for heart disease,

cancer, and many other serious diseases that affect many Americans today (Pozuelo & Zhang,

2008). Due to the emphasis of looking “good” that is portrayed through the media among our

society today, exercise may increase one‟s self-esteem and well-being overall causing the person

to be healthy in multiple aspect of their life (Pretty, Peackock, Sellens & Griffen, 2005). Any

exercise at all is suggested to improve multiple different aspects of people‟s lives (Kerr &

Vlaswinkel, 1990). Whether it is medical, psychological, or physical, exercise seems to have

many positive results on a person.
EFFECTS OF EXERCISE ON ANXIETY                                                               11


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Description: What is a low-intensity exercise? Has a relatively simple distinction between methods. Low-intensity exercise - the body feel comfortable, not tired, breathing smoothly. Moderate-intensity exercise - breathing a little cramped, but can persist for some time. High-intensity exercise - out of breath, sore muscles fatigue.