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KNPE professor studies psychological stress, effects on exercise, muscular function recovery

July 26, 2012
Matthew Stults-Kolehmainen

Matthew Stults-Kolehmainen

A breakthrough study outlining the effects of psychological stress on the recovery of muscular function after strenuous exercise was recently published in the prestigious Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

The results might explain why stressed populations are less fit and develop adaptations more slowly than non-stressed populations.

Responsible for the article? Matthew Stults-Kolehmainen, assistant professor of exercise science in NIU’s Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education.

Stults-Kolehmainen conducted the study with John B. Bartholomew, professor and associate chair in the College of Education at the University of Texas.

Pilot testing began in 2006 and all research concluded in 2009. The study revealed a significant debilitating effect of psychological stress on the rebound of muscular performance.

“This is the first study in our field to demonstrate that chronic psychological stress, measured both objectively and subjectively, is related to impaired recovery of muscular function after strenuous exercise,” Stults-Kolehmainen said.

More than 1,000 participants were screened for stress levels. Those in the upper and lower ends of stress – in other words, those relatively overwhelmed and relaxed – were retained for the study.

“Stress is often considered a ‘nuisance’ variable in exercise science, and it has not received the attention it deserves. When it is studied, it is often in the context of exercise interventions for mental health,” he said. “We hope that this paper helps to redirect scientific resources into the study of this construct and how it can impact our efforts to maximize exercise adaptations.”

The article arrives at a very busy time in the professional life of Stults-Kolehmainen. It has garnered heavy attention early and comes on the heels of his previously published article in Obesity, a distinguished journal published by Nature. “The last year has been very exciting for me,” he said.

Read the full article online at

by Eric Johnson