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Effects of Perceived and Aerobic Fitness on Wellbeing, Job Stress, and Life Stress

Researcher Brooke Luxton

Supervisors Dr Graeme Ditchburn

Date: November, 2010

Background

Previous research has indicated that increased fitness can improve wellbeing and reduce stress, which can benefit individuals, organisations, and government initiatives. Many theories attempt to account for this exercise-psychological enhancement relationship, however, there is no agreed upon explanation. Previous literature is conflicting, with varying reports of the impact of aerobic and perceived fitness on Life Stress, Job Stress and Wellbeing.

Methodology

This paper examined whether Aerobic and Perceived Fitness are associated with Life Stress, Job Stress, and Wellbeing. A total of 74 participants (35 males, 39 females) completed a series of self-report surveys measuring Perceived Fitness, Life Stress, Job Stress, and Psychological Wellbeing, and engaged in a beep test to measure Aerobic Fitness. All participants were employed at the time of testing, as this was an eligibility requirement to assess perceptions of Job Stress.
Self report measures included a Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire, Job and Life Stress Questionnaire, Perceived Physical Fitness Scale, Perceived Physical Activity Questionnaire, and Subjective Wellbeing Questionnaire. A series of group testing sessions of up to 20 participants were conducted over two weeks. Quantitative Analyses were conducted including descriptive statistics, correlation, regression and structural equation modelling to explore the relationships between the variables.

Findings

This study hypothesised that Aerobic and Perceived Fitness would be positively associated with each other, and both would be negatively associated with Life Stress and Job Stress, while positively related to Wellbeing. Results indicated that Perceived Fitness was associated with higher Wellbeing and lower Life Stress; however, it was not associated with Job Stress. Aerobic Fitness was not associated with Life Stress, Job Stress, or Wellbeing. Results indicated that Aerobic Fitness had a positive relationship with Perceived Fitness and that Perceived Fitness may partially account for the exercise-psychological enhancement relationship.

Conclusion

This study found significant relationships between Perceived Fitness on Wellbeing and Life Stress, whereas Aerobic Fitness was not associated with these variables. This is consistent with previous research that suggests that Perception of Fitness plays an independent (Abadie, 1988) and perhaps more influential role than aerobic fitness in improving psychological functioning (Desharnais, et al., 1993; Plante, et al., 1998; 2000). Job Stress was significantly related to Life Stress, but not Perceived Fitness, Aerobic Fitness, or Wellbeing. It is recommended that future research and fitness initiatives should promote actual and perceived fitness when seeking to understand the exercise-psychological enhancement relationship. Promotion of actual and perceived fitness is argued to be the most effective approach to receive the combined physiological and psychological benefits (Brown, 1991; Desharnais, et al. 1993; Plante, et al., 1998, 2000). This research supports the notion that Perceived Fitness partially accounts for the exercise-psychological enhancement relationship; however, additional mechanisms influencing this relationship require further investigation (Desharnais, et al., 1993).