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Effects of Exercise on Stress

Most researchers in exercise psychology who have studied stress have looked at whether exercise influences perceived stress. Many studies have confirmed that people generally report reduced or fewer symptoms of stress when they have been physically active. It appears that aerobic types of exercise lasting up to about 30 minutes are generally associated with the largest reductions in perceived stress. Aerobic exercise programmes lasting at least a few months seem best for reducing reports of chronic (lasts more than six months) stress. A meta-analysis of research has found that fitter people have lower heart rates and blood pressure during active mental stress (e.g. solving a mental arithmetic problem, public speaking) compared to less fit people (Forcier et al., 2006). However, another meta-analysis found that fitness was weakly associated with responses to stress induced in the laboratory (Jackson & Dishman, 2006).


Take a moment to think about two or three times when you have experienced stress, and evaluate how stress influences your health and performance.