Description: Given the time of year/term (mid-November) and if you are a secondary or post-secondary student you are likely just coming out of a mid-term exam period or you are just beginning to contemplate the end of the term assignment and exam demands. So, it is likely your stress levels are a bit elevated. Do you have some reliable ways to cope with that stress? Yes, it IS true that getting down to the business of studying or working on papers before they are due in a day or two are good strategies that everyone should be using but what else have you figured out that helps with stress or that might be worth trying? What about exercise? No doubt you have heard that regular exercise reduces the impact of stress, increases individua “toughness” and endurance, and reduces the impact of that stress can have on sleep patterns, concentration, and general wellbeing. But, do the positive effects of exercise on student wellbeing apply to everyone? Well, as you may have run across before in looking at research on these sorts of things the answer seems to be that “it is complicated”. If I told you that exercise has different impacts upon stress depending upon what year of university students are in what do you think a study looking at that question might find? With your thoughts on this question in mind have a look at the article linked below.
Note that it is an actual research article and, so you can use a few strategies to get information from it more quickly that reading it from start to finish. Start by reading the abstract (the summary of the article written by the study authors) which appears at the beginning of the paper. This will provide you with a general overview of the study. Next skim through the introduction to see how the authors are locating their work in relation to previous work on this topic. If it is well written (and this one is pretty good) then this will provide you with some very useful information on the topic of study. Next skip the middle bits (methods and results) for now and skim the discussion and conclusion sections. This will give you a fairly quick overview of what the study found (or at least of what the researchers though they found). You can go back and look through the methods and results sections if you find you have questions about how they actually defined or measured things like exercise or stress and to see if you think they have missed anything that your think might be important to a proper understanding of what is going on in the research.
Source: The Influence of Exercise Empowerment on Life Stress (reference in reading list below)
Date: November 1, 2017
Photo Credit: Carlton University Athletics http://athletics.carleton.ca/2014/exercise-can-help-manage-stress/
Links: Article Link — https://journals.aiac.org.au/index.php/IJKSS/article/download/3843/3080
So perhaps, as far as it goes for students, exercise buffers stress only for low levels of chronic stress and that in higher stress circumstances the exercise becomes one more demand on one’s time adding to rather than reducing one’s stress. But maybe it still depends on things that have not yet been researched. Oh, and are you comfortable with exercise being defined as attendance at exercise classes? Lots still to think about and lots of research still to do……
Questions for Discussion:
- What was your initial belief about the relationship between stress and regular exercise?
- What did the researchers conclude about exercise and stress in their article? (No, it is not really very clear, is it?)
- What would you like to see in the way of additional research in this area in order to sort these questions out a bit better?
References (Read Further):
Parker, T. M., Lewis, C. A., & Beaudoin, C. M. (2017). The Influence of Exercise Empowerment on Life Stress. International Journal of Kinesiology and Sports Science, 5(4), 33-37. https://journals.aiac.org.au/index.php/IJKSS/article/download/3843/3080
Garber, M. C. (2017). Exercise as a Stress Coping Mechanism in a Pharmacy Student Population. American journal of pharmaceutical education, 81(3), 50. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5423066/
Denovan, A., & Macaskill, A. (2017). Stress and subjective well-being among first year UK undergraduate students. Journal of Happiness Studies, 18(2), 505-525. http://shura.shu.ac.uk/12114/3/Macaskill%20Stress%20and%20Subjective%20Well-Being.pdf
Wunsch, K., Kasten, N., & Fuchs, R. (2017). The effect of physical activity on sleep quality, well-being, and affect in academic stress periods. Nature and science of sleep, 9, 117. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5414656/