Linkages between physical activity and nightly salivary cortisol in a pilot study of adolescents
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Publisher:The Ohio State University
Series/Report no.:The Ohio State University. College of Nursing Honors Theses; 2015
The purpose of this study was to explore associations between the frequency of moderate/strenuous physical activity among adolescents and their averaged nightly cortisol level collected over a one-week time period. Prior research has supported that physical activity can be beneficial for reducing psychosocial stress. However, studies have also found significant associations between high intensity exercise and elevated salivary cortisol levels– a physiologic stress marker. Secondary data were analyzed from a pilot study of 22 adolescents recruited from one high income and one low-income census tract located in an urban area in the Midwest. Data were collected via trained interviewers over a one-week time frame in which youth completed an in-home survey and self-collected nightly saliva samples for cortisol on nights 1-6. Two survey questions were asked related to the frequency of moderate and strenuous physical activity over the prior week (range 0-10). The frequencies were summed to create a total score of moderate/strenuous physical activity over the prior week and dichotomized to compare adolescents who engaged in moderate/strenuous physical activity 6-10 per week to those who engaged 0-5 times per week. Nightly cortisol levels were assessed via ELISA assay and the week’s values were averaged and logged due to the skewed distribution. Spearman rho correlation between the total score of moderate/strenuous physical activity and the averaged nightly cortisol was modest (0.37, p<0.09) and the ANOVA bivariate analysis indicated adolescents who engaged in moderate/strenuous physical activity 6-10 per week had higher mean cortisol values compared to their less active peers (p<0.05). Longitudinal research on the effects of frequent/moderate physical activity on adolescents’ cortisol levels and subsequent health outcomes is needed.
Academic Major: Nursing
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