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
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
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 (Sıme, 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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