Implementation of an aerobic exercise training to reduce stress and depression and to improve psychological well-being among PhD students of Urmia University
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Paper ID : 1151-12THCONG
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1Urmia University, Department of motor behavior; Urmia, Iran
2Department of Sport, Exercise and Health, Division of Sport and Psychosocial Health, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland
3Psychiatric Clinics, Centre for Affective, Stress and Sleep, Disorders, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland
In recent years, research policy observers have reported concerns about the potential negative impact of research conditions on mental health of PhD students at university settings. Students going to PhD studies are at particular risk to report symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression and a poor quality of life, along with substance abuse. The present interventional study sought to test whether an aerobic exercise training program could reduce symptoms of stress and depression, and increase psychological well-being among PhD students of the Urmia University (Urmia, Iran), compared to an active control group.
Forty male PhD-students from the Urmia University (mean age = 29.45, SD = 1.82) were randomly assigned either to the aerobic exercise intervention or the active control condition. The aerobic exercise training intervention lasted for 8 weeks, with two sessions the week, and lasting 35- 45 minutes per session. The active control condition met at the same duration and frequency. At baseline, eight weeks later after completion of the intervention, and again four weeks later at follow-up, participants completed questionnaires covering perceived stress, depression and psychological well-being. Repeated measures analyses of variance were used to assess time by group interactions.
Significant time by group interaction effects were found for all outcomes. In the aerobic exercise training group, psychological well-being improved, and symptoms of stress and depression decreased over time from baseline to intervention completion and to follow-up. In the active control group, the outcomes remained relatively stable across time.
The present findings suggest that among male Iranian PhD-students, an aerobic exercise training intervention has the potential to reduce symptoms of stress and depression, and to increase their psychological well-being. The quality of the data did not allow to assess psychophysiological mechanisms underlying the favourable effect of regular exercising on psychological functioning. It further appears that policy makers and university management should pay more attention to their PhD-students psychological condition.