Anxiety symptom interpretation: A potential mechanism explaining the cardiorespiratory fitness-anxiety relationship

Sarah Williams, Douglas Carroll, Joachimina Veldhuijzen van Zanten, Annie T. Ginty

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16 Citations (Scopus)
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Higher cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with lower trait anxiety, but research has not examined whether fitness is associated with state anxiety levels and the interpretation of these symptoms. The aim of this paper was to (1) reexamine the association between cardiorespiratory fitness and general anxiety and (2) examine anxiety intensity and perceptions of these symptoms prior to an acute psychological stress task.


Participants (N=185; 81% female; Mage=18.04, SD=0.43 years) completed a 10-minute Paced Serial Addition Test. General anxiety was assessed using the anxiety subscale of the Hospital Anxiety Depression Scale. Cognitive and somatic anxiety intensity and perceptions of symptoms was assessed immediately prior to the acute psychological stress task using the Immediate Anxiety Measures Scale. Cardiorespiratory fitness was calculated using a validated standardized formula.


Higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness were associated with lower levels of general anxiety. Path analysis supported a model whereby perceptions of anxiety symptoms mediated the relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and levels of anxiety experienced during the stress task; results remained significant after adjusting for general anxiety levels. Specifically, higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness were positively associated with more positive perceptions of anxiety symptoms and lower levels of state anxiety.


A standard formula rather than maximal testing was used to assess cardiorespiratory fitness, self-report questionnaires were used to assess anxiety, and the study was cross-sectional in design.


Results suggest a potential mechanism explaining how cardiorespiratory fitness can reduce anxiety levels.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-156
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Early online date31 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2016


  • Aerobic fitness
  • Anxiety sensitivity
  • Cognitive anxiety
  • Coping
  • Somatic anxiety


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