Friday, June 15


It is estimated that in the United States approximately 7.3% of the adult population has an anxiety disorder that necessitates some form of treatment (Regier et al., 1988). In addition, stress-related emotions, such as anxiety, are common among healthy individuals (Cohen, Tyrell, & Smith, 1991). The current interest in prevention has heightened interest in exercise as an alternative or adjunct to traditional interventions such as psychotherapy or drug therapies.

Anxiety is associated with the emergence of a negative form of cognitive appraisal typified by worry, self-doubt, and apprehension. According to Lazarus and Cohen (1977), it usually arises “ the face of demands that tax or exceed the resources of the system or ... demands to which there are no readily available or automatic adaptive responses” (p. 109). Anxiety is a cognitive phenomenon and is usually measured by questionnaire instruments. These questionnaires are sometimes accompanied by physiological measures that are associated with heightened arousal/anxiety (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure, skin conductance, muscle tension). A common distinction in this literature is between state and trait questionnaire measures of anxiety. Trait anxiety is the general predisposition to respond across many situations with high levels of anxiety. State anxiety, on the other hand, is much more specific and refers to the person’s anxiety at a particular moment. Although “trait” and “state” aspects of anxiety are conceptually distinct, the available operational measures show a considerable amount of overlap among these subcomponents of anxiety (Smith, 1989).

For meta-analytic reviews of this topic, the inclusion criterion has been that only studies examining anxiety measures before and after either acute or chronic exercise have been included in the review. Studies with experiment-imposed psychosocial stressors during the postexercise period have not been included since this would confound the effects of exercise with the effects of stressors (e.g., Stoop color-word test, active physical performance). The meta-analysis by Schlicht (1994), however, included some stress-reactivity studies and therefore was not interpretable.

Landers and Petruzzello (1994) examined the results of 27 narrative reviews that had been conducted between 1960 and 1991 and found that in 81% of them the authors had concluded that physical activity/fitness was related to anxiety reduction following exercise and there was little or no conflicting data presented in these reviews. For the other 19%, the authors had concluded that most of the findings were supportive of exercise being related to a reduction in anxiety, but there were some divergent results. None of these narrative reviews concluded that there was no relationship. *

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