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Health Psychol. 1992;11(6):355-62.

Acute exercise: buffering psychosocial stress responses in women.

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  • 1Department of Health and Sport Science, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC 27109.


We evaluated the experimental hypothesis that an acute bout of aerobic exercise (AE) serves as a buffer to psychosocial stress responses in low to moderate physically fit women. Forty-eight (24 White, 24 Black) 25- to 40-year-old women participated in two counterbalanced experimental conditions: an attention control and a 40-min bout of AE at 70% heart rate (HR) reserve. The attention control and AE treatments were followed by (a) 30 min of quiet rest, (b) exposure to mental and interpersonal threat, and (c) 5 min of recovery. Blood pressure (BP) and HR were monitored at baseline, during the stressors, and throughout recovery. Self-reported distress was assessed before each stressor and upon completion of the recovery period. The results provided clear evidence that exercise dampens BP reactivity to psychosocial stress. Additionally, compared with the attention placebo control, AE reduced both the frequency and intensity of anxiety-related thoughts that occur in anticipation of interpersonal threat and challenge.

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