Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Health and Movement Sciences

First Advisor

Ronald K Evans

Second Advisor

Ryan S Garten

Third Advisor

Jessica G LaRose


Anxiety Sensitivity (AS), the belief that anxiety-related sensations may have harmful implications, can alter autonomic nervous system (ANS) function. Exercise has previously been shown to reduce AS; however, the effects of an exercise intervention on heart rate variability (HRV), a measure of ANS function, has not been evaluated in individuals with high AS. This study sought to 1) compare resting HRV in individuals with either low (LAS) or high AS (HAS) and 2) evaluate the effects of a 2-week exercise intervention on HRV and AS. Using the Anxiety Sensitivity Index (ASI-3), participants were identified as LAS (n=9; ASI-3=5.89±1.39) or HAS (n=15; ASI-3=32.87±2.49) and subsequently completed six 20-minute moderate intensity exercise sessions. HRV and psychosocial measures were obtained at baseline and following the 2-week intervention. No significant differences (p>0.05) in time or frequency domain HRV values between groups were revealed at baseline; however, when considering the HAS group alone, strong associations were observed between the ASI-3 score and HRV values in the time domain: RMSSD (r=-0.56), SDNN (r=-0.61), and pNN50 (r=-0.53). Following the intervention, changes observed in HRV and the higher and lower order (subscale) ASI-3 scores were not different between the groups; however, a medium to large effect was observed for the higher order ASI-3 and the cognitive subscale score, suggesting that our findings were likely limited by the small sample size. Further research is warranted to evaluate the relationship between HRV and AS and should seek to determine the most effective exercise interoceptive exposure for improving AS symptomology.


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Available for download on Wednesday, December 13, 2023