Does a 20-week aerobic exercise training programme increase our capabilities to buffer real-life stressors? A randomized, controlled trial using ambulatory assessment
- 1.8k Downloads
The cross-stressor adaptation hypothesis suggests that regular exercise leads to adaptations in the stress response systems that induce decreased physiological responses to psychological stressors. Even though an exercise intervention to buffer the detrimental effects of psychological stressors on health might be of utmost importance, empirical evidence is mixed. This may be explained by the use of cross-sectional designs and non-personally relevant stressors. Using a randomized controlled trial, we hypothesized that a 20-week aerobic exercise training does reduce physiological stress responses to psychological real-life stressors in sedentary students.
Sixty-one students were randomized to either a control group or an exercise training group. The academic examination period (end of the semester) served as a real-life stressor. We used ambulatory assessment methods to assess physiological stress reactivity of the autonomic nervous system (heart rate variability: LF/HF, RMSSD), physical activity and perceived stress during 2 days of everyday life and multilevel models for data analyses. Aerobic capacity (VO2max) was assessed pre- and post-intervention via cardiopulmonary exercise testing to analyze the effectiveness of the intervention.
During real-life stressors, the exercise training group showed significantly reduced LF/HF (β = −0.15, t = −2.59, p = .01) and increased RMSSD (β = 0.15, t = 2.34, p = .02) compared to the control group.
Using a randomized controlled trial and a real-life stressor, we could show that exercise appears to be a useful preventive strategy to buffer the effects of stress on the autonomic nervous system, which might result into detrimental health outcomes.
KeywordsCross-stressor adaptation hypothesis Ambulatory assessment Real life Psychological stress Heart rate variability Randomized controlled trial Aerobic exercise
Root mean square of successive differences
Aerobic exercise training
Cardiopulmonary exercise testing
Respiratory exchange ratio
Heart rate variability
Analysis of covariance
Maximum oxygen consumption
- Anastasopoulou P, Tansella M, Stumpp J et al (2012) Classification of human physical activity and energy expenditure estimation by accelerometry and barometry. Proceedings of the annual international conference of the IEEE engineering in medicine and biology society, EMBS, pp 6451–6454Google Scholar
- Clifford GD, McSharry PE, Tarassenko L (2002) Characterizing artefact in the normal human 24-hour RR time series to aid identification and artificial replication of circadian variations in human beat to beat heart rate using a simple threshold. Comput Cardiol 2002:129–132. doi: 10.1109/CIC.2002.1166724 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Cohen J (1988) Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences, 2nd edn. Erlbaum, HillsdaleGoogle Scholar
- de Geus E, Stubbe J (2007) Aerobic exercise and stress reduction. In: Fink G (ed) Encyclopedia of Stress. Academic Press, New York, pp 73–78Google Scholar
- Eleuteri A, Fisher A, Groves D, Dewhurst C (2012) An efficient time-varying filter for detrending and bandwidth limiting the heart rate variability tachogram without resampling: MATLAB open-source code and internet web-based implementation. Comput Math Methods Med 2012:1–6. doi: 10.1155/2012/578785 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Task Force (1996) Heart rate variability: standards of measurement, physiological interpretation and clinical use. Task Force of the European Society of Cardiology and the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology. Circulation 93:1043–1065. doi: 10.1161/01.cir.93.5.1043 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Meyer T, Kindermann W (1999) Die maximale Sauerstoffaufnahme. Dtsch Z Sportmed 50:285–286Google Scholar
- Roecker K (2007) Sportmedizin für Ärzte. Lehrbuch auf der Grundlage des Weiterbildungssystems der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Sportmedizin und Prävention (DGSP). In: Dickhut HH, Mayer F, Röcker K, Berg A (eds) Deutscher Ärzteverlag, Köln, pp 70–72Google Scholar
- Sothmann M (2006) The cross-stressor adaptation hypothesis and exercise training. In: Acevedo EO, Ekkekakis P (eds) The psychobiology of physical activity. Human Kinetics, Champaign, pp 149–160Google Scholar
- Wilhelm H, Grossman P, Müller MI (2012) Bridging the gap between the laboratory and the real world: integrative ambulatory psychophysiology. In: Mehl MR, Conner TS (eds) Handbook of research methods for studying daily life. The Guilford Press, New York, pp 210–234Google Scholar