Broman-Fulks JJ1, Abraham CM1, Thomas K1, Canu WH1, Nieman DC2. Anxiety sensitivity mediates the relationship between exercise frequency and anxiety and depression symptomology. Stress Health. 2018 May 23. doi: 10.1002/smi.2810.
1 Department of Psychology, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, USA.
2 Department of Health and Exercise Sciences, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, USA.
The anxiolytic and antidepressant effects of regular physical exercise have been well documented, though the mechanisms through which exercise alleviates symptoms of emotion disorders require further investigation. Mounting research indicates that exercise reduces anxiety sensitivity, a known vulnerability factor for the development and maintenance of psychological disorders, presumably via repeated exposure to feared somatic sensations. The purpose of the present study was to examine whether anxiety sensitivity mediates the relation between exercise frequency and symptoms of anxiety and depression. A large community sample of 955 volunteers completed a demographic questionnaire, the Anxiety Sensitivity Index-3, and the Brief Symptom Inventory-18. Exercise frequency significantly predicted anxiety sensitivity, anxiety, depression, and somatization scores. Mediation analyses indicated that anxiety sensitivity mediated the association between exercise frequency and anxiety, depression, and somatization symptoms. The findings provide further support for the association between exercise and negative affective states and suggest that anxiety sensitivity may be one mechanism through which exercise reduces emotional disorder symptomology. The implications of these findings and recommendations for future research are discussed.