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This study examined the state anxiety (SA) and perceived arousal (AS) responses to self-selected or imposed-intensity bouts of acute exercise performed in different environments by 30 women with high social physique anxiety (SPA). Participants were randomly assigned to a self-selected or imposed-intensity choice group and subsequently (a) exercised in a naturalistic environment, (b) exercised in a laboratory environment, and (c) rested quietly. Assessments of SA and AS were obtained before, during, and following each condition and data were analyzed via separate 2 × 3 × 6 (Intensity Choice × Condition × Time) ANOVAs with repeated measures on the Condition and Time factors. Results revealed that AS increased during both exercise conditions. Conversely, SA was elevated only during the naturalistic exercise condition, and item-level analysis revealed that this increase was composed of both activation and apprehension/worry inventory items. Although SA was reduced 5 min following both exercise conditions, the anxiolytic effect only persisted following the laboratory condition. No significant differences in SA or AS were observed between the two groups. It is concluded that environmentally-induced perceived evaluative threat is associated with an increase in SA during exercise and may attenuate postexercise anxiolysis in women with high SPA.
Brian C. Focht is with the Dept. of Exercise and Sport Science, East Carolina Univ., Minges Coliseum, Greenville, NC 27858; Heather A. Hausenblas is with the Dept. of Exercise and Sport Science, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32601.