Exercise-induced anxiolysis: a test of the "time out" hypothesis in high anxious females

BREUS, MICHAEL J.; O'CONNOR, PATRICK J.

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise:
Applied Sciences: Psychobiology And Social Sciences
Abstract

Exercise-induced anxiolysis: a test of the "time out" hypothesis in high anxious females. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 30, No. 7, pp. 1107-1112, 1998.

Purpose: One purpose was to test the hypothesis that anxiety reductions following exercise are caused by a "time out" from daily cares and worries, and the second purpose was to document the magnitude of the change in state anxiety after exercise in high trait anxious females.

Methods: Anxious women (N = 14) completed four randomly ordered conditions: Exercise Only, 20 min of cycling (40% of V˙O2peak) followed by 20 min of recovery; Study Only, 40 min of studying while sitting on a cycle ergometer; Exercise/Study, 20 min of cycling (40% of V˙O2peak) while studying followed by 20 min of studying while sitting on the cycle ergometer; and Control, sitting quietly on an ergometer for 40 min.

Results: State anxiety was assessed before and after each condition. State anxiety was reduced following the Exercise Only condition (mean raw change score ± 95% confidence interval (CI) of 4.3 ± 3.5; t = 2.3, P = 0.04, d = 0.52). The 95% CI did not include zero after adjusting for precondition anxiety scores (adjusted change score ± 95% CI of 3.3 ± 3.2).

Conclusions: Because the reduction in state anxiety following exercise was blocked in the Exercise/Study condition (t = −0.05, P = 0.97, d = 0.01) and the associated CIs included zero (unadjusted 0.1 ± 3.4, adjusted 0.8 ± 3.2), the findings support the hypothesis that anxiety reductions following exercise occur because exercise affords individuals a time out from daily worries.

Author Information

Departments of Psychology and Exercise Science, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-3654

Submitted for publication December 1997.

Accepted for publication January 1998.

We acknowledge the assistance of Kathleen Susor and Valerie Phillips. This research was supported in part by National Institute of Mental Health Grant 1 R03 MH54132-01.

Address for correspondence: Patrick J. O'Connor, Ph.D., Department of Exercise Science, University of Georgia, 115-L Ramsey Center, Athens, GA 30602-3654. E-mail: poconnor@uga.cc.uga.edu.

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