EXERCISE: Brief intense exercise helps to manage stress
May 13, 2021 • 1 min read
-- Students who did short bursts of intense exercise during class a few times a week cope better with stress
Repeated bouts of high-intensity exertion counteract some of the unhealthy metabolic consequences of sitting for hours. HIIT sessions could also produce less stressed, more attentive students.
Year 11 students who did short bursts of intense exercise during class a few times a week coped better with stress, were more engaged in their learning, felt fitter and sharper, and had fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The study enlisted 670 year 11 students from 20 NSW government schools to take part in the randomised controlled trial of the Burn2Learn program, which involved different styles of high-intensity interval training that could be done in the classroom or outside.
The typical session was eight minutes, involving a one- or two-minute warm up then cycles of 30 seconds of intense exercise - such as push-ups - followed by 30 seconds of rest. Some sessions were just four minutes long.
Cardio-respiratory fitness improved after six months of doing the program, and upper body muscular endurance remained stronger six months after students stopped doing the workouts.
But one of the study’s most significant findings related to stress. Students’ cortisol, or stress hormone, measured via a hair test, dropped over the course of the trial.
While exercise sessions ate into class time, which was one of the concerns raised by teachers before the trial began, students were more focused when they returned to their desks.