Stress Reactivity to Repeated Low-Level Challenges: A Pilot Study
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The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of a mental challenge on cardiovascular and endocrine [epinephrine (EPI), norepinephrine (NE), and cortisol (CORT)] responses to subsequent low-intensity physical exertion. Twelve males (23.25 ± 0.45 years) completed three sessions, including a graded exercise test on a cycle ergometer and two counter-balanced mental stress trials. In the mental challenge-control condition (MC), participants sat quietly for 20 min following a 20 min mental challenge whereas in the mental challenge-exercise condition (MEC) subjects cycled at 35% of maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) following the mental challenge. Repeated-measures ANOVAs were used to assess state anxiety (SAI), cardiovascular variables, EPI, NE, and CORT levels across time between conditions. Participants reported significantly greater increases in SAI scores immediately after the mental challenge, which then decreased post-challenge in both conditions. Neither EPI or NE demonstrated an alteration in levels in either condition, but CORT significantly increased after the mental challenge in both conditions and then maintained a significantly greater level during the MEC compared to the MC condition from midexercise through 15 min of recovery. Area-under-the-curve calculations for CORT was significantly greater in the MEC compared to the MC. Results suggest that the initial mental challenge may have acted to enhance the overall adrenal response to the subsequent anticipation of and actual participation in the low-level physical challenge.
KeywordsHPA axis SA axis Cortisol Repeated stress Repeated bouts
This project was supported by a University of Mississippi Graduate Student Council Research Grant. The opinions or assertions contained herein are the private views of the authors and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the opinions of the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.
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