Psychosocial Stress But Not Exercise Increases Cortisol and Reduces State Anxiety Levels in School Classes - Results from a Stressor Applicable in Large Group Settings
Mirko Wegner, Anett Muller-Alcazar, Anika Jager, Sergio Machado, Oscar Arias-Carrion and Henning Budde
Affiliation: (Henning Budde) MSH Medical School Hamburg, Am Kaiserkai 1, 20457 Hamburg, Germany.
Both, psychosocial stress and exercise in the past have been used as stressors to elevate saliva cortisol and
change state anxiety levels. In the present study, high-school students at the age of 14 were randomly assigned to three
experimental groups: (1) an exercise group (n = 18), that was running 15 minutes at a medium intensity level of 65-75%
HRmax, (2) a psychosocial stress group (n = 19), and (3) a control group (n = 18). The psychosocial stress was induced to
the students by completing a standardized intelligence test under the assumption that their IQ scores would be made
public in class. Results display that only psychosocial stress but not exercise was able to significantly increase cortisol
levels but decreased cognitive state anxiety in adolescents. The psychosocial stress protocol applied here is proposed for
use in future stress studies with children or adolescents in group settings, e.g., in school.
Keywords: Cortisol, state anxiety, social stress test, exercise, adolescents, school.
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