Higher chronic psychological stress is associated with blunted affective responses to strenuous resistance exercise: RPE, pleasure, pain

Matthew A. Stults-Kolehmainen, Tao Lu, Joseph T. Ciccolo, John B. Bartholomew, Line Brotnow, Rajita Sinha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

The aim of this study was to determine whether mental stress moderates perceptions of muscular pain, exertion, pleasure and arousal during a bout of strenuous resistance exercise. Two hundred and ten undergraduate students recruited from resistance exercise classes were screened with the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). Fifty-seven individuals (age = 20.1±1.2y) were invited to complete the Undergraduate Stress Questionnaire (USQ), a measure of life event stress, and fitness testing. They later performed a two-phase, acute heavy-resistance exercise protocol: first phase: 10-repetition maximum (RM) leg press test; second phase: six sets at 80-100% of 10-RM. During exercise, participants responded to the Feeling Scale (pleasure), Felt Arousal Scale, Omni-RPE and the Pain Intensity Scale. Affective responses and heart rate were analyzed with a hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) growth curve analysis. USQ moderated the trajectories of affective responses and heart rate during exercise. Higher stress (USQ) levels were significantly related to lower rise in RPE (time2, p = .002; time3, p < .001) and heart rate (time2, p<.001; time3, p<.001). USQ had a main effect on pleasure and arousal (p values<.001), in which higher levels of stress were related to less affect. Models using the PSS scale produced similar results. PSS, but not USQ, interacted with time to predict pain (time2, p = .048; time3, p = .024). Relationships held even after adjusting for covariates, such as depression. Future research should determine if differential responses to exercise by stress have implications for behavioral interventions and mental health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-36
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Volume22
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

Keywords

  • Body composition
  • Chronic stress
  • Coping
  • Physical activity
  • Rating of perceived exertion

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