Exercise for stress management: the role of outcome expectancy
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Extensive evidence linking exercise with stress reduction has prompted many organisations to implement exercise stress management interventions in order to combat employee stress. These interventions however, have generally yielded low levels of effectiveness. Determining factors that can enhance the effectiveness of exercise stress management interventions is important for organisations implementing such interventions. The main purpose of the present study was to investigate the role that outcome expectancy has in the relationship between exercise and stress. Stress perceptions and exercise behaviours were assessed in 54 university students over the 4 weeks leading up to final examinations. Outcome expectancy was assessed once during this period. Heart rate was also assessed in 20 students on two occasions, including the exam. In contrast to the majority of research linking exercise with lower stress, individuals who exercised more than their own average during the study period had higher levels of exam stress over time, whilst variance in exercise levels from the group average was not significantly related to exam stress over time. Conversely, there was a significant difference in physiological exam stress (heart rate) between high and low exercise groups overtime for the overall heart rate average, but not the sleep or exam period heart rate averages. More specifically, it was found that the low exercise group had a stronger negative physiological reaction to the exam overall. No significant moderation effects of outcome expectancy on the relationship between exercise and stress were found. The results indicate that exercise is related to both self-reported and physiological indicators of stress, and that exercise at different levels (within-person and between-person) have differing effects on exam stress.