June 3, 2013
Children who engage in regular physical activity (PA) enjoy better physical and mental health. However, the underlying reasons for these observations are unknown. A group of researchers from Finland were interested in studying whether PA has a positive impact on the stress system and stress hormone levels. In a large community sample of 8-year old children, the researchers measured PA and stress hormone levels (both on a regular routine day and in response to a psychosocial stressor). Results showed that the group of children with low PA showed the largest stress response to the psychosocial stressor. In contrast, the group with highest PA showed a smaller response. PA did not have a similar impact on stress hormone levels in the absence of a stressor on a routine day. These findings suggest that more adaptive responsivity to stressors might explain the benefits experienced by those who engage in regular PA. The authors discuss the important role of PA in buffering against daily stressors.
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