Short-term Changes in Responses to Stress in Runners

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O'Connor, Molly Ann
Affect; Ecological Momentary Assessment; Exercise; Physiology; Stress; Psychology
thesis / dissertation description
The use of physical activity to cope with stress is becoming increasingly popular. Research indicates that individuals who routinely engage in cardiovascular exercise report better overall physical and psychological health and reduced reactions to stress than those who do not. In addition, there may be short-term improvements for these individuals on days when they exercise. The current study was designed to examine short- and long-term differences between runners and non-runners. Cardiovascular, affective, and behavioral data were collected from runners over a two-day period that included a running day and a rest day, and over a similar period in a non-running control group. Runners had lower heart rates and less negative affect during the two days than the controls, indications of long-term benefits of physical exercise. They also performed better on a simple math task on their running day than on their rest day, signifying that they may also realize short-term benefits from running.