Numerous studies have proven that physical exercise can improve both physical and mental health. The most commonly used tool for gauging decreases in anxiety resulting from aerobic activity is the state anxiety sub-scale of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (SAI). However, because anxiety is often related to feelings of threat, the results of the SAI, when self-reported, may not be entirely accurate. “One logical way to examine the construct validity of the SAI in response to exercise would be to assess the two dimensions of the SAI (cognitive and somatic) separately,” said Walter R. Bixby of the Department of Exercise Science at Elon University in North Carolina, and lead author of a recent study. “Therefore, the purpose of this investigation was to examine the two-dimensional nature of the SAI before, during, and following acute bouts of exercise.”
For his study, Bixby enlisted 32 non-smoking women who were in good health. “Specifically, participants completed two 30-minute bouts of aerobic exercise at low- and high-intensity,” Bixby said. “The SAI was administered at numerous points throughout the protocol allowing for thorough temporal resolution of self-reported anxiety.” He found that high-intensity activity resulted in increased anxiety during the exercise and decreased anxiety after. Additionally, lower impact exercise resulted in only decreased anxiety.
Bixby said, “For the cognitive factor, there was little to no change during a decrease following both the low- and high-intensity exercise, thus the negotiation of the exercise stimulus did not cause an increase in the cognitive appraisal of anxiety while a significant decrease in the cognitive appraisal of anxiety occurred following the exercise session.” He added, “For the somatic factor, a significant increase occurred during both the low- and high intensity exercise followed by a significant decrease during recovery.” Pelham added, “As exercise psychologists, an essential goal of the field is the discovery of the psychological changes associated with exercise, while reducing the artifact associated with assessment instruments. Only through a better understanding of the measures employed in exercise psychology will we be able to more clearly understand the affective response pattern during and following exercise.”
Bixby, Walter R., and Bradley D. Hatfield. “A Dimensional Investigation of the State Anxiety Inventory (SAI) in an Exercise Setting: Cognitive vs. Somatic.” Journal of Sport Behavior 34.4 (2011): 307-24. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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