Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



Second Department


First Advisor

Brian Cohen

Second Advisor

Lindsay Morton




stress hormones, stress response


Exercise negatively correlates with physiological stress responses, but there is less research on short-term stress hormones for this response. For this thesis, I hypothesized that exercise and fitness levels would be negatively correlated with perceived stress and with physiological stress from a standard stressor. Undergraduate college participants reported their chronic stress, current mood, past week’s physical activity (amount and intensity), perceived physical fitness, and demographic characteristics. Participants also engaged in a social stress task, on which they had limited time to prepare a speech with no notice or resources that was given in front of peers who were ostensibly analyzing and recording them. Then they performed a mental math task aloud for five minutes. To measure physiological reactions, participants’ blood pressure, heart rate, and salivary amylase levels were assessed at baseline, immediately after the stressor, after ten minutes, and after thirty minutes. Perceived fitness and overall stress were negatively correlated, but there was no significant correlation between exercise engagement and overall stress. Participants were significantly emotionally stressed from the stress-inducing task, but participants who exercised more or had higher perceived fitness did not show significantly lower amylase, heart rate, or diastolic blood pressure responses to the stressful task. Participants who exercised more did show significantly higher systolic blood pressure than participants who did not exercise as much, which prompts a call for further research. These findings reinforce the theory that exercise reduces stress, but questions remain as to the effect of exercise and fitness on the physical stress response.