Does Aerobic Exercise Reduce Stress Responses?

  • Roger B. Fillingim
  • James A. Blumenthal
Part of the Perspectives on Individual Differences book series (PIDF)


Physical exercise has become increasingly popular as a leisure-time activity, in part due to its potential health benefits. In particular, physical activity has been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease (Leon, Connett, Jacobs, & Rauramma, 1987; Paffenbarger, Hyde, Irving, & Steinmetz, 1984). The cardioprotective effects of exercise may be due to a reduction in cardiac risk factors, such as obesity, hyperlipidemia, and hypertension (Dufaux, Assmann, & Holl-mann, 1982; Martin, Dubbert, & Cushman, 1990; Paulev, Jordal, Kristenen, & Ladefoged, 1984; Vu Tran & Weltman, 1985). In addition, exercise may reduce cardiovascular risk by attenuating cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responses to psychosocial Stressors. It has been shown that improved aerobic fitness is associated with altered cardiovascular and sympathoadrenal functioning. Specifically, decreased heart rate at rest and during exercise, as well as decreased plasma concentrations of epinephrine and norepinephrine during exercise, result from aerobic training (Blomqvist & Saltin, 1983). It is believed that these cardiovascular and hormonal changes are related to decreased sympathetic activity and increased vagal tone following aerobic training (Astrand & Rodahl, 1986). In addition to altering physiologic activity at rest and during physical work (i.e., exercise), it is hypothesized that exercise also may modulate cardiovascular responses to psychological stress.


Aerobic Exercise Cardiovascular Response Aerobic Training Aerobic Fitness Mental Arithmetic 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roger B. Fillingim
    • 1
  • James A. Blumenthal
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Psychiatry and PsychologyDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA

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