Physical Fitness and Stress
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BERRY, W. D. (2001). Physical Fitness and Stress. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 4. Available online at Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

Physical Fitness and Stress

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (
Sixty-one participants enrolled in a mixture of aerobic and anaerobic exercise classes and volunteered to take a stress/anxiety survey to determine that exercising has an effect on stress. Half of the volunteers took the survey before their exercises and the other half took the survey after completing their workout with in an hour. Moreover, studies show physical fitness can have an influence on stress, however this particular study showed no effect on stress.

Physical fitness applies to being the physiological condition in relation to optimal physiological and body-movement functioning (Chung & Baird, 1999). Many Americans engage in physical fitness to maintain or improve their physical appearance. However, physical fitness not only could improve body health, but also could improve mental health (Chung & Baird, 1999). There are two types of physical fitness that can help improve mental health. There is aerobic exercise and anaerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise involves a continuous and intensive exercise of the heart and lungs. These exercises help strengthen the cardiovascular-respiratory system and heart rate. Some examples of these exercises involve walking, running, biking,, swimming (Chung & Baird, 1999).The second type of physical fitness is anaerobic exercise. This involves with muscular fitness and flexibility. However, this exercise does not improve or strengthen the cardiovascular-respiratory system but it will improve muscular strength. Muscular strength is the ability to exert force for a brief period and apply force against any object. Examples of the anaerobic would be weight lifting, push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, and stretches. Yoga and stretching would be a component of flexibility, which is the ability to move joints using the musclesí full range of motion (Chung & Baird, 1999). Exercising is considered to have some effect to improve stress and can be use for an alternative treatment. Layman (1974) found a relation between physical fitness and stress. This relationship received attention for many years (Carlson, 1990). Stress has come from many sources in everyday life; such as, work overload, poor relationships, family issues, unrealistic expectations or demands, exhaustion, emotional burnout, financial worries and health problems. This stress related problem has become Americaís most common mental health disorder (Augustine, 1999). Since stress can cause some physical problems, such as tight muscles, there are numerous physical activities that can reduce the tightness and would help ease the stress (Augustine, 1999). Physical activity also is a counseling aid for stress and other mental health problems. This is why many psychologist and hospitals use physical activity as a treatment for personal health problems. Physical activity as a treatment can improve physical health as well as being physically fit, personal appearance and self-confidence, which also can help with interpersonal relationships (Carlson, 1990). The purpose of this study is to determine if a person who is involve with both types of physical fitness, aerobic and anaerobic exercises do help a personís stress level with an hour of workout.


The participants in this study were 61 people who were already enrolled in four different classes and a mixture between aerobic and anaerobic. The first set of people were 21 undergraduate students that were enrolled in an aerobics lab class. They were currently taking an undergraduate general study PED 101 class at Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph, Missouri. The second sets of people were 20 undergraduate students enrolled in a general lab class and also currently taking the PED 101 class at Missouri Western State College. The third set were 10 people who were enrolled in an aerobics class at Aliceís Energy Connection, a fitness center located in the northern part of St. Joseph, Missouri. The fourth set were 10 people who were in a weight lifting class at the Fitness Center located at Missouri Western State College campus. These participates volunteered to take a stress/anxiety survey.

The material used were a pencil and paper survey. The survey consisted of 24 stress/anxiety related questions (see Appendix A). The stress/anxiety survey comes from a psychological testing survey questionnaire web site,

First, four in-session classes, two aerobic and two anaerobic classes, were chosen. The students in the classes were asked to fill out a stress/anxiety survey, either before the exercise class began or after the workout. This would divide the four classes into four groups; aerobic lab class as the before/aerobic, general lab class as the before/anaerobic, aerobic fitness class at Aliceís Energy Connection as the after/aerobic, and the weight lifting class at Missouri Westerns Fitness Center as the after/anaerobic. The division of these groups were a 2x2 mixed design ANOVA to determine an effect that either aerobic or anaerobic exercise has on a personís stress level.

A 2 (before/after) x 2 (aerobic/anaerobic) mixed design factorial ANOVA was calculated comparing the stress scores of subjects who were entering or completed an aerobic or anaerobic exercise class. The main effect for whether or not stress scores were measured before or after class was not significant (F(1,57) = 1.65, p=.16). The main effect for whether or not stress scores were measured for an aerobic or anaerobic class was not significant (F(1,57)=1.29, p=.72). Finally, the interaction was also not significant (F(1,57)=.157, p=.694). Thus, it appears that neither the class or the type of class has any significant effect on stress scores (see Appendix B & C).

Before this study with aerobic/anaerobic and before/after exercise workout, there were tentative assumptions that the subjectís stress level would decrease within an hour worth of workout. Along with a prediction that the subjectís stress level before working out compared with the subjectís after working out would be different. In this particular study, the results showed no difference with the subjectís stress level between an aerobic or anaerobic exercise class. In addition to the timing of an exercise class, either before or after a workout, did not make an effective difference with subjectís stress level. Even though there has been a relationship between physical fitness and stress (Carlson, 1990), in this particular study there is not a major effect between the stress and physical fitness. If this study had focused on the difference between people who workout, compared with people who do little or no workout, a significant difference could have occurred.. However, there could have been a few dilemmas in this particular study. For instance, the choice of the particular classes may not have fit the image of a steady workout program. The timing of the subjectsí stress level may not have been reliable. The subjectsí age, status of employment, and gender could make a difference. Since a focus on college studentsí stress level could also differ from someone not attending college. Various ages of people could have various levels of stress. Even the different genders could have different ways of coping with stress.Furthermore, for future studies with this investigation, we hope there will be better control on choosing the different exercise programs as well as the subjects with various status of employment. Instead of comparing the difference in an hour workout, the focus should be about exercising for a few weeks or months of working out and this extended time or workout could give a change on stress level.

Augustine, S. (1999). Stress survival strategies. Office Pro, 59, 18-21. Carlson, J. (1990). Counseling through physical fitness and exercise. Elementary School Guidance & Counseling, 24, 298-303.Chung, B. & Baird, K. (1999). Physical exercise as a counseling intervention. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 21, 124-126.

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Submitted 5/1/01 1:18:03 PM
Last Edited 5/1/01 1:40:39 PM
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