The Effect of Physical Exercise on Anxiety

Abstract

In
this study, the effects of physical exercise to eliminate
the anxiety in university youth was investigated. The study
covered 311 students who had never involved in physical exercise
or any form of physical exercise. They were from 7 different
departments of Education Faculty of Konya Selçuk University.
State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) by Spielberger was applied
to the students. The first 60 who had the highest anxiety
scores were determined. Half of 60(30 student) participated
in physical exercise while the other 30 were accepted as the
control group. Pre, mid and post-test were administered to
both the test and control group. Results were estimated by
ANOVA. As a result ; the anxiety level of female students
was found to be higher comparison to males’ depending upon
the gender. In addition, the results also showed that participation
physical exercise and physical activities decreased the anxiety
level of both sexes. According to the age, a similar level
of anxiety was seen at the beginning. It appeared that these
activities had a reduction in anxiety levels of all age categories.
The reduction mentioned above was found highest in 19-20 age
group. According to fields, the physical exercise activities
played a very important role in minimizing the anxiety. This
effect was the most reliable on the students of music department.
As a result, it has been concluded that physical exercise
activities played a very notable role to eliminate anxiety
of the university youth.

Key
Words
: anxiety, physical exercise, university, student,
psychology

Introduction

Anxiety
is a feeling that exists in people nature. It occurs under
irritating conditions. Excess anxiety may result in abnormal
functions for the body. Everybody feels different anxiety,
and physiological properties play very important roles in
this situation(Spilberger, 1996).

Anxiety
starts gradually and increases step by step. In case not to
be controlled, it rises and irritates the people. The main
reasons of anxiety are business travel, smoking, alcohol,
over weight, failure, inappropriate physical appearance. Anxiety
indications may be bone pains, being tired, headache, nervous,
poor sleeping, forgetting, hesitations, hypochondriacs etc(Link,1993).

Anxiety
and depression are the leading concerns of college students’
mental health (Rice and Leffert, 1997; Rimmer, Halikas, and
Schuckit, 1982; Vredenburg, O’Brien, and Krames, 1988). Attending
classes, taking tests, writing papers, and doing homework
keep students running into busy schedules, working, nurturing
a child, and taking care of other life concerns can create
considerable stress and decreases sleeping hours, causes lower
attendance rates, drop out, emotional behaviors, alcohol abuse,
use of illegal drugs, or violence, lack of interpersonal skills,
make unrealistic demands on themselves and others, suffer
from motivational problems, and lower grades that impede their
success in college (Arthur, 1998, Haines, Norris, and Kashy,
1996; Vredenburg, O’Brien, and Krames, 1988). This type of
lifestyle may directly contribute to high levels of anxiety(Bertocci,
Hirsch, Sommer, and Williams, 1992; Thompson, Bentz, and Liptzin,
1973).

We
should all be aware of the benefits of regular physical activity;
it can improve our energy levels while we expend calories.
It can be as simple to incorporate into our daily lives as
taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking an extra
block instead of riding, or taking a walk after a meal instead
of taking a nap. Regular physical exercise can help to prevent
and manage coronary heart disease, hypertension, noninsulin-dependent
diabetes, osteoporosis, and mental health problems, such as
depression and anxiety. And regular physical activity has
been associated with lower rates of colon cancer and incidence
of stroke.

Physical
activity can have a significant effect on mental health. Physically
active adults have enhanced self concepts and self esteem,
as indicated by increased confidence, assertiveness, emotional
stability, independence and self control. Tekin (1997 ) found
a significant difference between athlete and non-athlete student
according to the scores of physical perception and self-esteem.
Tekin (1998) administered a physical exercise programme to
some of students participated in same summer camp and had
different psychological outcomes from control and exercise
group. Moreover, Zorba, Ziyagil and Tekin(1999) exposed the
same results in their research that took up the relation between
perceived physical competence, physical exercise, sport age
and some psychological paramaters.

Doing
exercises can eliminate anxiety, tension and stress under
pressure conditions. The use of habitual exercise as a stress
management technique has the benefits of mood enhancement,
increased self-esteem and reduced psychological and physical
stress reactions. Further, the greater the skill in exercise,
the greater the appreciation of the quality of life and self-discovery
through exercise(Berger).

According
to Graham, Holt and Parker (1998), physical activities activities
such as basketball, tennis, racquetball, weight-lifting, self-defense,
and swimming help students to improve and maintain physical,
mental health and the quality of lives.

In
addition, a moderate-intensity exercise program has been reported
to have a beneficial effect on the immune system (Nieman &
Pedersen, 1999). Specifically, moderate exercise was found
to reduce the number of sick days. Enhancement of immune function
may derive from the stress-reducing and stress-hormone-decreasing
(i.e., cortisol) benefits of exercise.

Although
lower levels of anxiety have been reported for the young who
engage in physical exercise (Craft & Landers, 1998; Mutrie
and Biddle, 1995), little is known about the effects of exercise
on anxiety in youth. Anxiety could be eliminated mainly by
uses of physical exercise. The effects of exercise on youth’s
anxiety is still less understood. Thus, the present study
investigated whether physical exercise reduce the anxiety
levels of the university students.

Material
and Methods

In
these study, male and female students from 7 different departments
of Selçuk University, Education Faculty were used.
This study covered only 1st and 2nd grade students. State
Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) by Spielberger was applied
to 311 students. The first 60 who had the highest anxiety
scores were determined. Half of 60(30 student) participated
in physical exercise while the other 30 were accepted as the
control group. Pre, mid and post-test were administered to
both the experimental and control group. Results were estimated
by ANOVA. Test group participated in organized physical activities
such as gymnastics, volleyball, athletics for 30 minutes everyday
during the six weeks. Mathematical mean, median, top value,
standard error, standard deviation, variance, series width,
minimum and maximum score values were calculated for each
group. Having tested the variance analysis, .05 significance
level was accepted and controlled.

Results

The
distribution of total students was given in table 1.

Table
1. The distributions of students who were applied to STAI.

Department Total
Student
Respondent Ratio
(%)
Turkish
Language and Literature
126 57 45
Chemistry 123 44 36
History 130 48 37
Geography 113 34 30
Primary
School Teacher
97 19 20
Music 60 51 85
Kids
School
56 48 86
Total 705
311 44

The
scores obtained from 311 students who were applied CAT were
ranked. According to the test result , 25% of 311(60 student)
who got highest anxiety scores were chosen as research group.

Table
2. The distribution of research group according to sex.

Research
group
Female
Male
Total
Number
%
Number
%
Number
%
Control
Group
14 46,7 16 53,3 30 100,0
Exercise
Group
15 50,0 15 50,0 30 100,0
TOTAL 29 48.3 31 51.7 60 100.0

Table
2 shows the distribution of total students who participated
in the research according to sex. The half of research group(30)
accepted as exercise group. Female and male student’s ratios
were almost same, and it was equal in exercise group. This
situation showed that control and exercise groups had similar
characteristics according to the sex variations.

General
Analysis of Anxiety Scores of Control Group

The
results obtained from 3 measurements of control group students
was given table 3.

Table
3. The distributions of control group students who were applied
to STAI.

Statistical
Indicators
Pre-test
results
Mid-test
results
Post-test
results
Mathematical
Mean 
54.46  56.5  58.23 
Standard
Error 
1.00  0.62  0.58 
Median  54.5  56.0  57.0 
Top
Value 
56.0  56.0  57.0 
Standard
Deviation 
5.50  3.41  3.21 
Variance  30.25  11.63  10.32 
Series
Width 
28.0  16.0  16.0 
Minimum
Score 
45.0  49.0  54.0 
Maximum
Score 
73.0  65.0  70.0 
The
results of variance obtained from 3 Measurements.  
sd:2F
= 6.126 
F
– critical = 3.101 
P
< 0.05 

It
can be seen from the table 3 that anxiety scores increased
from initial to last day(a 4-score increment from initial
to last day measurement). Standard deviation for control group
were 1,00, 0,62 and 0,58 in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd measurements
respectively. This situation showed that anxiety levels of
students were almost similar to during the periods of initial
and last measurements. Series width also was 28 for initial,
and was 16 for 2nd, and 3rd measurements. The median of control
group was found nearly mathematical mean. Thus, anxiety score
distribution was seen a normal distribution. The minimum scores
for control group were determined as 45, 49 and 54 for 1st,
2nd, and 3rd measurements respectively. This showed that anxiety
level of control group students increased during the research
period.

General
Analysis of Anxiety Scores of Exercise Group

The
general analysis of scores obtained from 3 measurements of
exercise group students were given in table 4.

Table
4. The results of exercise group obtained from 1., 2., and
3. measurements.

Statistical
Indicators
1.
Anxiety Score
2.
Anxiety Score
3.
Anxiety Score
Mathematical
Mean
55.27 46.767 41.93
Standard
Error
1.238 1.0201 0.78041
Median 54 47 42
Top
Value
51 45 37
Standard
Deviation
6.782 5.5874 4.2745
Variance 46 31.22 18.2713
Series
Width
26 27 17
Minimum
Score
45 30 35
Maximum
Score
71 57 52
The
results of variance obtained from 1., 2. and 3. measurements.
Sd:
2F = 42,9
F
– critical = 3.101
P
<0.05

Graph
1. The means of anxiety scores obtained from exercise group
students for three measurements.

Looking
at the scores obtained from exercise group for three measurements,
anxiety scores have reduced in the period of initial to last
measurement. There was a 14-score reduction for this period
(table 4). The standard deviations for exercise group were
found as 6.78, 5.58 and 4.27, in first, second and third measurements
respectively. This showed that between initial and last measurement
stages, anxiety level was mainly similar, and series widths
for initial and third measurements varied from 26 to 17 so,
this also supported to our assumption. The anxiety score distribution
was found as normal distribution because, median value was
nearly equal to mathematical mean. The minimum values for
exercise group were found as 45, 30 and 35 for first, second
and third measurement. This situation also showed that anxiety
level for exercise group declined during the periods initial
to last measurement. The exercise group students attended
2.5 months planned physical exercise activities, and this
resulted in decline of anxiety level. Comparison of exercise
group with control group will be explained later on. Considering
a 14-score reduction of anxiety scores for exercise group,
it can be said that planned physical exercise activities made
remarkable effect on human pychological lives.

As
conclusion, there was a significant decline in anxiety level
for exercise group students during the periods of first and
last measurements, and there was a uniform reliable anxiety
level. The differences of mean scores between first and second
measurements was calculated as 8.51 and 4.84 between second
and third measurement for exercise group. It means physical
exercise activities influenced greater the anxiety level from
beginning up to 5 weeks time period. After diminishing the
anxiety level in a certain score, physical exercise activity
reduced anxiety marginally. The difference between anxiety
scores for exercise group students in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd measurement
was found significant (P<0.05). This showed that it was
impossible to say that the anxiety level reduces randomly
and it was found significant.

Comparison
the Results of Control Group with Exercise Group

Comparison
control group with exercise group for first, second and third
anxiety measurements were explained as follows;

Table
5. Comparison to measurements of control group with test group
and its meaning

I.
Measurement
Control
Group
Exercise
Group
Standard
Deviation sd
Calculated
t-value
Critical
t-value
Result
Mathematical
Mean 
54.46  55.26  29  
0,544  
1,699
P  
>
0.05*  
Variance  30.26  45.99 
II.
Measurement
Mathematical
Mean 
56.5  46.7  29    9.93  1,699
P  
>
0.05*  
Variance  11.64  31.22 
III.
Measurement
Mathematical
Mean 
58.23  41.93  29    16.223  1,699
P  
>
0.05*  
Variance  10.32  18.27
 

Graph
2. The results of 1st, 2nd and 3th measurements for control
and exercise groups.

As
it seen from the table 5; the mean of anxiety scores for control
group in first measurement was calculated as 54.46 that was
almost equal to mean first measurement of exercise group (55.26)
on same date. The t-value for both groups was found not significant
that meant in the beginning of the study, control and exercise
group students had same characteristics in terms of anxiety
level. This was very important for explanation the second
and third measurements difference.

Mathematical
mean, variance and t-exercise results for control and exercise
groups are given in table 5. According to this, there was
a 9.8 score variation for second measurement between control
and exercise group considering. The mean anxiety score for
first measurement 0.8 higher for exercise group, in second
measurement of both group the real difference was not 9.8
score and it was seen 10.6 score. This may be explained that,
the mean anxiety score for control group increased from 54.46
to 56.5 while it reduced from 55.26 to 46.7 for exercise group.
This showed that during the periods of first and second measurement,
physical exercise activities applied to the exercise group
had positive effects.

Although
the difference in the man of mathematical scores for both
group in first measurement was found not significant. It was
found significant for second measurement (P<0.05). Hence,
physical exercise activities for test group had positive effects.

There
was a 16.3 score difference in last measurement for control
and exercise groups. This was very important to show last
anxiety level of students. After making control and exercise
group and first measurement, up to final date of exercise
group applied physical exercise activities; anxiety level
of control group increased as 3.77 score where as it reduced
as 13.3. score for exercise group. Therefore, considering
0.8 score increment in exercise group for first measurement,
total (0.8 + 3.77 + 13.3) 17.87 score real difference was
found. In other definition, 17.87-score decrement was resulted
from the physical exercise activities applied to the exercise
group.

The
decrement for first and second measurement period was 8.5
while it was calculated 4.83 for second and last measurement
period. This showed that physical exercise activities were
more effective in initial and then gradually effective in
exercise group. The three measurement results of anxiety level
for control and exercise group are shown in figure 3.

The
difference in mean of third anxiety measurement(post-exercise)
result for both groups was found significant (P<0.05).
Therefore, this conclusion mentioned above was very important
to reduce the anxiety level by means of physical exercise
activities.

Discussion

The
results of anxiety level study obtained from control and exercise
group students for first, second and third measurements showed
that, control and exercise group’s anxiety level indicated
some characteristics at the beginning of the research but,
there was a 9.8 score variation at the end of the second measurement
and mean of anxiety scores of control group increased from
54.46 to 56.5 while exercise group reduced from 55.26 to 46.70.
This supported that physical exercise activities had positive
effect in exercise group. In last measurement, difference
between groups was found as 16.3 score. This showed the last
situation in anxiety level. As a result of physical exercise
activities, during the periods of first and last measurement,
there was a 13.3 score decrement in exercise group whereas
it was to exercise group resulted in 17.87 score decrement
in anxiety level. This result supported the hypothesis of
continuous anxiety reduction was resulted from planned physical
exercise.

Previous
studies showed that daily anxiety can be reduced by physical
exercise(Ragling ve Morgan, 1987). 15 minutes running three
times a week, gymnastics, volleyball, exercise do away with
anxiety and stress of human(Link, 1993).Anxiety may be also
reduced by reliable intensive (60% maximum hearth pressure)
and 20 minutes exercise (Sime, 1984), the exercise performed
in aerobic environment with 20 minutes decreases anxiety efficiently(Weiss,
1993).

The
results could be summarized as follows;

  • The physical exercise that eliminate anxiety seen in university
    youth decreased continuous anxiety very efficiently.
  • There was an inverse relationship between physical exercise
    and anxiety.

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Correspondance
Address: Dr. Mevhibe Akandere and Ali Tekin
(research assistant)
Marmara Üniversitesi Beden Egitimi ve Spor Yüksek
Okulu
Anadoluhisari Istanbul Turkey
Tel 02123085661
Fax 02123321620
e-mail alitekin66@hotmail.com

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