The Effects of Physical Activity on Salivary Stress Biomarkers in College Students

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Katarzyna Roberts


Physical exercise has been proven to have a positive impact on one’s physical andmental health. Today’s fast- paced, high tension lifestyles have led to an increase of chronic stressin individuals of society. Chronic stress is associated with many diseases and disorders such ashypertension, depression, heart attack, stroke, immune suppression, diabetes, and obesity. Exercisehas been found to play a significant role in stress reduction. This research is focused on evaluationof the stress relief effect of physical exercise by measuring the levels of salivary stress markers:cortisol and α-amylase. Cortisol is a steroid hormone secreted by the adrenal gland and associatedwith the stress response in the human body. Levels of cortisol are increased during stimulationof the sympathetic nervous system and regulated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis(HPA). Salivary α-amylase is a correlate of sympathetic activity under conditions of physical orpsychological stress. Levels of salivary α-amylase increase under a variety of stressful conditions inhuman subjects. Three groups of college students were studied: individuals who exercise regularly(active, athletes), students who exercise two to four times a week (active, non-athletes) and studentswho do not exercise (non-active). Quantitative measurements of cortisol and α-amylase variationswere done using salivary analysis in enzyme immunoassay kits. Cortisol levels overall were reducedin individuals who exercise regularly, whereasα-amylase appeared useful in observance of variouslifestyle activity levels. The implications of these findings suggest means of reducing stress byregular physical exercise, thus promoting overall health and wellbeing.

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