An experiment was conducted to determine whether a brief program of aerobic exercise would reduce the heart rate and subjective responses of high- and low-fit subjects to a psychologic stressor. Thirty-four high-fit and 34 low-fit subjects were exposed to a moderate stressor (recall of digits backwards test) while their heart rates and subjective responses were monitored. Approximately half of the high- and low-fit subjects then participated in a 13-week aerobic exercise training program, whereas the other subjects did not. After the 13-week period, the subjects were again exposed to the stressor. Results indicated that a) in the pretest the low-fit subjects showed a greater heart rate response to the stressor than the high-fit subjects, b) the training program was effective for increasing subjects' levels of aerobic fitness, and c) the training program was effective for reducing the heart rate response to the stressor of low-fit subjects. These findings provide support for the relationship between fitness and the response to psychologic stressors and they suggest that aerobic training may be an effective way of helping low-fit persons deal with psychologic stressors.
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