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Health Psychol. 1991;10(6):384-91.

Stress reactivity and exercise training in premenopausal and postmenopausal women.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710.


Examined the influence of ovarian function on psychophysiological stress responses and determined if aerobic exercise reduced stress reactivity. Fifty premenopausal and postmenopausal women initially were subjected to a public speaking task and an ice-on-the-forehead procedure, during which time their blood pressure and heart rate were monitored and continuous blood samples were obtained. Subjects also underwent aerobic fitness evaluations with a maximum-exercise treadmill test. Subjects were then randomly assigned to a 12-week exercise program of either aerobic exercise (e.g., walking and jogging at a prescribed exercise intensity) or non-aerobic strength and flexibility training and were then reevaluated. Results indicated that postmenopausal women exhibited lower resting epinephrine levels but greater epinephrine reactivity to the speaking task compared to the premenopausal women. There were no differences between premenopausal and postmenopausal women with respect to cardiovascular or catecholamine responses during the cold challenge. Premenopausal and postmenopausal women also achieved comparable improvements in aerobic fitness. However, results of the mental stress testing were complex and provided only partial support for the role of aerobic exercise in reducing stress responses.

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