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Effects of Exercise on Anxiety Symptoms

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 2659 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Evaluation of Evidence

Anxiety affects both healthy individuals and those diagnosed at clinically anxious. Manifestations of anxiety are “persistent and debilitating symptoms of worry, apprehension, hyperarousal, and sleep disturbances that interfere with quality of life” (Lucibello, Parker, & Heisz, 2019, p. 29). This state of anxiety causes an activation of the autonomic nervous system leading to distress. Those with clinical anxiety are at increased risk for physical health issues such as cardiovascular disease. Due to the immediate effects of anxiety on a person’s quality of life and the long-term health risks there is need for research for interventions to treat and for the management of anxiety (Lucibello et al., 2019). The purpose of this paper is to discuss two randomized controlled trails in the research of the effects of exercise on the symptoms of anxiety for its prevention, management and treatment.

Study 1

The randomized control trial by Herring, Monroe, Gordon, Hallgren, and Campbell examined the acute effects of exercise comparted to quiet rest. This was to replicate previous studies of this on women and to then be able to extend to men. Each participant performed one session of 30-minute aerobic exercise on a treadmill and one 30-minute session of quiet rest. The vigor of aerobic exercise was ensured by baseline heart rate (HR) established and then monitored during exercise session to be 65%- 85% of their heart rate reserve (HRR). The RCT was consistent with previous studies that which showed exercise decreased anxiety and feeling of fatigue in both men and women. In women increased feeling of energy reported in women, null in men. A surprising result was that quiet rest led to reports of increase in anxiety and fatigue (Herring, Monroe, Gordon, Hallgren, & Campbell, 2019). This research further supports aerobic exercise as a treatment in the management of anxiety. 

Study 2

The RCT by Lucibello, Parker, and Heisz examined the acute effects after performed a moderate intensity exercise session, once a week and then tracked them for 9 weeks. Hypothesis was that high-level anxiety individuals would benefit more from exercise session and that these reductions in anxiety levels would continue to decrease over the 9-weeks.  Recruitment into study was those only with low-level BPAL and were divided into a low-level anxiety and high-level anxiety groups. The study was weighted towards females at 86%. Results from trial proved hypothesis true in this study. Both groups experienced decrease in anxiety with exercise, but only high-anxiety group continued to see gains over the 9-weeks (Lucibello et al., 2019).


Anxiety can affect anyone. The symptoms are unpleasing and deplete ones quality of life if develop into a chronic problem. This state of chronic anxiety also places them at greater risk of cardiovascular disease. Exercise continues to be shown as an appropriate intervention for the prevention and treatment of anxiety. Further investigation and trials to track the progress of these individuals. But this should not be a deterrent of exercise being suggested by practitioners to their patients.



Assignment 2: Evaluation Table Template


Study 1

Study 2






Level of Evidence

Herring, M. P., Monroe, D. C., Gordon, B. R., Hallgren, M., & Campbell, M. J. (2019). Acute exercise effects among young adults with analogue generalized anxiety disorder.


Lucibello, K., Parker, J., & Heisz, J. (2019). Examining a training effect on the state anxiety response to an acute bout of exercise in low and high anxious individuals


Purpose of the Study

         Effect of aerobic exercise on men and women

         To replicate and extend research on women to men

         Explore potential gender differences

         To see if these benefits greater in those with higher anxiety states

         And if this is augmented with exercise training (over 9wks,)

Theory or Conceptual Framework


“That compared to quiet rest, an acute bout of aerobic exercise would significantly improve worry, state anxiety, and feelings of energy and fatigue among young women and men with worry indicative of general anxiety disorder”


         The exercise group would have significant acute reduction in anxiety after single session

         Reductions will increase over the 9wks

         Those with higher anxiety levels will experience greater reduction in anxiety

Design/ Method

         RCT

         Each participant completed one session of acute aerobic exercise and quite rest.

         Acute Aerobic Exercise: vigorous, 30-min. supervised running on a Woodway Pro ® treadmill, at 655-85% of HRR

         Control Group: Quite Rest

         30-min of seated rest in same laboratory, in upright chair, no reading, no music.

         RCT

         Assess BPAL/cardiorespiratory fitness prior to intervention

         Recruitment of participants currently engaged in low-level physical activity

         Each participant was assigned to either a 9wk. moderate intensity exercise group

That performed 1 acute bout a week

Sample/ Setting

         35 young adults

         16 females

         19 males

         Age: 21.4 2.3yrs

         No attrition

         54 young adults recruited

         4 dropped out prior to start

         5 after intervention began

         45 completed study

         $125 for participation

Major Variables Studied and
Their Definitions

         IV1= Exercise

         IV2= Quiet rest

         DV1= Anxiety

         DV2= Feelings of energy

         DV3= Feelings of Fatigue

         DV4= Gender differences

         M= high trait anxiety

         M=poor sleep quality

         IV1= Exercise

         IV2= inactive control group

         DV1= anxiety level at start of course

         DV2=acute effect of exercise on anxiety

         DV3=effect of exercise training over 9wks.

Measurement of Major Variables

         State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-Y1)

         Profile of Mood State- Brief Form (POMS-B)

         ANOVA (two way)

         Hedges’- d


         One-way ANOVA (ensure groups equal)

         Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI)

         Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-6)

         VO₂ peak

         Partial R2



         Anxiety, t= 3.32, p=<0.001

         Feelings of Fatigue, t=4.35, p=<0.001

         Women: Feeling of energy d= 1.35

Exercise vs Quite Rest

         Anxiety: = ⁻4.62

         Feelings of energy: = 2.86

         No significant group differences

         Main effect of group: R2 0.34

         Anxiety severity: R2 0.35

         Anxiety severity by week: R2 0.29

         High anxiety group: R2 0.57

Study Findings

         ↓Anxiety

         ↓Feelings of Fatigue

         No gender differences in anxiety

         ↑feeling of energy in women

         Quiet rest lead to ↑anxiety, ↑fatigue

         Both low and high anxiety participants benefited from exercise

         High anxiety participants significantly benefited from exercise

         No change in control group.

Strength of the Evidence (i.e., level of evidence + quality [study strengths and weaknesses

         Strengths:

  • RCT
  • Not gender biased
  • Supervised exercise session
  • HRR to ensure vigor intensity

         Weaknesses:

  • Sample may have underestimated BPAL
  • Small sample size

         Strengths:

  • RCT
  • BPAL was assessed scientifically
  • First to track training effects

         Weaknesses:

  • Predominantly women in sample

Used with permission, © 2019 Fineout-Overholt


ANOVA: Analysis of Variance; AW: Absence of Worry; BPAL: baseline physical activity level

DV: dependent variable; GAD: general anxiety disorder; RCT: Randomized control trial

HRR: heart rate reserve; IV: independent variable; Partial R2= effect size (scale used: 0.2 small, 0.13 medium, 0.26 large); WE: Worry Engagement; Sample mean:


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