Document Type

Honors Paper

Publication Date



In order to be a successful athlete, you must be able to perform well under stressful situations. Are athletes also better at responding to stress under other circumstances such as social and academic stress? The present study investigated the impact of exercise on salivary cortisol and perceived stress in college students. Cortisol was sampled throughout a semester as well as before and after a laboratory‐based stress test during the final exam period. It was found that athletes had the largest increase in cortisol between baseline and the final exam period and the sedentary students had the smallest increase. Also, cortisol levels and perceived stress were correlated in the athlete group and in a second group of students who work out regularly. These findings suggest that perhaps since athletes are often in competitive situations their HPA axis is physiologically conditioned to raise their cortisol to an optimal level in order to achieve their personal best possible results in stress provoking situations.



The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.