The effects of acute self-paced exercise and respiration biofeedback on anxiety and affect in high-stress university students

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Meier, Nathan
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Amy S. Welch
Ann Smiley-Oyen
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The Department of Kinesiology seeks to provide an ample knowledge of physical activity and active living to students both within and outside of the program; by providing knowledge of the role of movement and physical activity throughout the lifespan, it seeks to improve the lives of all members of the community. Its options for students enrolled in the department include: Athletic Training; Community and Public Health; Exercise Sciences; Pre-Health Professions; and Physical Education Teacher Licensure. The Department of Physical Education was founded in 1974 from the merger of the Department of Physical Education for Men and the Department of Physical Education for Women. In 1981 its name changed to the Department of Physical Education and Leisure Studies. In 1993 its name changed to the Department of Health and Human Performance. In 2007 its name changed to the Department of Kinesiology. Dates of Existence: 1974-present. Historical Names: Department of Physical Education (1974-1981), Department of Physical Education and Leisure Studies (1981-1993), Department of Health and Human Performance (1993-2007). Related Units: College of Human Sciences (parent college), College of Education (parent college, 1974 - 2005), Department of Physical Education for Women (predecessor) Department of Physical Education for Men
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High rates of stress-related problems in college students and low utilization of treatment options show a need for simple, effective interventions for stress management. Both exercise and breathing biofeedback have proven effective in reducing state anxiety in the past, but have never been compared. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of brief exercise and breathing biofeedback interventions on altering state anxiety and affect in high-stress, college students. Thirty-two participants (mean age=21.5±3.2 years; 21 female) experienced the following 10-minute interventions on separate days: self-paced walk (EX), breathing biofeedback (BF) and a placebo condition of quiet study (QS). Anxiety and affect data were gathered using the State Anxiety Inventory (SAI) and Activation Deactivation Adjective Checklist (AD-ACL), respectively, before (Pre), immediately after (Post0), and 15 minutes after (Post15) the intervention in each condition. Heart rate variability (HRV) was measured at 2 time points (Pre- and Post-intervention). Mixed-factor Condition (3) x Time (3) repeated-measures ANOVAs were run on State Anxiety and Affect. Condition (3) x Time (2) ANOVAs were performed on HRV variables. Follow up time (3) repeated-measures ANCOVAs were run on EX and BF conditions for State Anxiety and Affect variables with HRV variables as covariates.

Findings demonstrated that BF reduced anxiety, with the effect size for the BF condition nearly double that of the EX condition (Pre to Post15: BF d=-.39, EX d=-.21). Secondly, the EX condition increased Energy from Pre to Post0 (d = .68) that then returned to baseline by Post15. In contrast, the BF condition showed a temporary increase in Calmness (d = .5). The QS condition produced no change in state anxiety or affect constructs. Finally, change over time was seen in the pNN50 variable indicating that, regardless of the intervention, a short break from normal stressors can increase HRV. However, changes in HRV did not explain the improvements in psychological states. In conclusion, the findings of the present study provide evidence for the benefits of acute bouts of both self-paced exercise and respiration biofeedback in improving anxiety and affect in high-stress college students. The mechanisms underlying these effects remain unclear.

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Tue Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2013