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Mock Research Proposal on Chronic Stress

Chronic Stress and Exercise Types

Melissa Rubbo
Kaplan University
Prof. Joseph Moore
October 20, 2013

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Chronic stress, the silent killer, is clearly on the rise in todays society. The physical and
mental effects of stress are constantly invading the body. The repetition of these stressors on the
mind and body begin to put the mind and body in a constant state of stress, which soon, the body
will either give out, or find a way to cope. We are a culture that over consumes and with that over
consumption we find an overly stressed mind and body (Seaward, 2008). Multitasking and being
constantly overloaded with information, whether it is technology or everyday events, is putting
an overwhelming amount of stress on us each day. By doing this, we are increasing our risks of
diseases like hypertension, mental disease, and even diabetes and cancer. We are seeing a rise in
cardiovascular disease as a result of stress, and even adolescents are at a high risk as stress
effects brain function, and in growing adolescents the neural mechanism makes insignificant
events extremely stressful (OBrien & Baime, 2011).
Stress levels in America are high and increasing at an alarming rate and as life gets busier
these stress levels must be dealt with. With risks like these, solutions to dealing with stress are
important for the health of people today. The top 5 stressors in the U.S. are job pressure, money,
health, relationships, and poor nutrition (American Psychological Association, 2013). Along with
these stressors come stress symptoms like fatigue, headaches, digestion problems, irritability, and
anger (APA, 2013). An overly stressed society can bring about a number of problems, so learning
to deal with stress is vitally important to the well-being of individuals everywhere. Behavior
problems are a result of stress and we see this in children and adults who have Attention Deficit
Disorder and/or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. (Tennant, 2005). Stress affects the part
of the brain that regulates behavior so when stress is constant we will see problems with impulse

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control, decision making, and other brain functions that are important in developing and
functioning. The problem of stress needs to be studied and solutions must be discovered to
prevent the decline of our society as a whole. The idea of this research proposal is to find new
information for the research problem of chronic stress in America.
The prevention of stress has long been researched and many studies show multiple ways
of relieving stress. Relaxation techniques are one of the foremost methods of stress relief and
these techniques include breathing exercises, meditation, visualization (guided imagery), yoga,
and many others (Mayo Clinic, 2013). An excellent example of breathing to reduce stress is a
breathing technique called Pranayamic breathing. Because the nervous system is directly
associated with how stress effects the body physically, then it is understood that anything that
effects the nervous system will either increase or decrease the effects of stress on the body
(Seaward, 2008, p 37). Pranayamic breathing has been studied and shows that it can change the
levels of oxygen consumption, heart rate, and blood pressure while increasing parasympathetic
activity, which are relaxed actions like a decrease in heart rate, and an overall sense of calm
(Jerath, Edry, Barnes, & Jerath, 2006). These particular breathing techniques are to bring a sense
of calming to an individual. These techniques work best when a person is stressed, breathing
short and shallow, and is unable to calm down or focus. These techniques are great for dealing
with stressful situations that hit hard and without warning. An example would be losing a small
child in a crowded place. Being a high stress situation, deep breathing can help slow the
individuals heart rate, and calm their racing thoughts in order to stay in a state of mind that
thinks rationally so they can move forward and help to locate their child. Being overly anxious

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and stressed out will only add to the confusion and the problem. A situation like this would be
considered an acute stressor and can be dealt with immediately using breathing, calming and
focusing techniques.
Dealing with chronic stress requires a technique that is used every day. An example of
this would be exercise. Chronic stress is often a result of anxiety, and it has been shown that
anxiety can be combatted against with exercise (Petruzello, Landers, Hatfield, Kubitz, Salazar,
1991). In the study it shows that only aerobic exercise had the greatest effect, and it wasn't until
over a course of 10 weeks of consistent aerobic exercise that the effect was its greatest
(Petruzello, Landers, Hatfield, Kubitz, Salazar, 1991). It was also important to note that the
duration of the exercise made a difference. If it was too short it was not enough to fight the
anxiety, yet too long and it was putting undue stress on the body and the mind. 21 minutes was
the necessary amount of time to create anxiety reduction. It is understood that exercise helps with
stress relief, but what type of exercise, and is there a type of exercise that will work better for
some people and not for others? We know exercise will increase endorphins and improve your
mood, but these results come from exercise that gets your heart rate up and gets your body
moving (Mayo Clinic, 2013).
We can see that aerobic exercise produces hormones in the brain that give what runners
call a runners high and this neurochemical reaction is reached during long distance running
(Boecker, Sprenger, Spilker, Henriksen, Koppenhoefer, Wagner, Valet, Berthele, & Tolle, 2008).
Running for 21 minutes is a good start for the body to release stress, but longer durations are
even more beneficial. Taking long distance aerobic exercise (i.e., long distance running) and high
intensity, varied metabolic conditioning (i.e., CrossFit type exercise) and comparing the two as

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to which has a greater benefit at reducing stress over a period of time would be informative for
the general public when looking for different ways to reduce their stress levels.
I believe there is enough research on aerobic exercise and stress to gather information for
that side of the question, but studies and information regarding high intensity; varied functional
movement and stress is not as thoroughly studied. I have found some articles explaining that
CrossFit type exercises not only develop physical performance, but also work on mental
performance (OHara, 2012). With high-intensity cross training we have controlled stress, which
over time give the mind and the body the practice it needs in order to know what to do in
stressful situations. Confidence and self-esteem are the foundations for the type of personality
that handles stress well. Individuals can learn to gain confidence and self-esteem by exercising
and accomplishing small goals (OHara, 2012). Because constantly varied, high-intensity,
functional movement exercise is an area that studies have not regularly been done, I hope to add
new information in stress reduction techniques. I have found some journal articles as well as
informative medical and exercise blogs on the high intensity exercises and I will use these
alongside the aerobic articles to create my mock research proposal.
Rather than create a hypothesis, I have chosen to refine my research problem and create a
refined research question. Is constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement exercise
more beneficial physiologically than aerobic exercise (i.e., running) as it pertains to stress

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Research Design
We have two main research designs that we can use to gather data in a research study.
Qualitative and quantitative are the two research designs I will briefly discuss. Qualitative design
is an approach that will ask questions like how or why and finds results in a real-world
setting (Matthews, 2011, p 108). Quantitative research design focuses on the data and statistics
and numerical data are usually the result of quantitative research design. Most often you will see
percentages used and participants will be completely anonymous by way of using numbers
(Matthews, 2011, p 83). Depending upon the type of data you are seeking and the research
problem, one of these may be better than the other, but it is possible to use both in a research
Random sampling and non-random sampling are two ways to pick your participants.
Random sampling allows for all participants to have an equal chance at being chosen, whereas
non-random sampling has a bias (Matthews, 2011). Again, depending on the research study,
random could be beneficial when using quantitative research design as numbers fit perfectly with
the choice of design. Non-random sampling can be used for either qualitative or quantitative, but
because non-random is biased, it might be best used in qualitative where the researcher wants to
study specific types of people or samples.

Research Process Description

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I will most likely use non-random sampling as I am looking for all participants who have
run or exercised for a certain length of time. I would consider using stratified sampling as the
data result I am looking to find is related to stress management rather than the exercise itself so
focusing on bringing different types of participants to the table is important. Everyone deals with
stress on a daily basis, so having an equal number of participants who run and participants who
CrossFit, as well an equal number of people in the control group who live a sedentary lifestyle
and do not exercise, I will be able to have a good foundation of participants in which to research.
One of the ways I would gather data from my participants is to have them keep a stress
journal. Each participant would keep their journal for the course of 12 weeks while they
continued with their daily exercise program. There would be a weekly check in with each
participant for a checkup interview and to ensure that journal is being filled out. The participants
will be encouraged to write down any moments in the day where they feel stressed along with
how they reacted, what they did to combat it, if at all, and how long it took them to come back to
a state of non-stress. The weekly interviews will have stress-related questions as well as exercise
related questions. The results from these weekly interviews will be compiled to form a basis for
the exercise type (i.e., aerobic exercise or constantly varied, high-intensity, functional
movement). Most of the results will rely on the participants willingness to express their daily
stress levels and whether or not they feel that their exercise program has an effect on their stress


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There are four ethical principles that should be considered prior to research. These
principles are: 1. Informed consent 2. Explanation to the participant of the design and study
being done. 3. Explanation of risks and potential benefits. 4. Confidentiality, privacy and
protection of participants information.
On the ethical side of this research study, I will ensure that all four ethical standards are
met. I will develop a document that will allow participants the choice to participate by asking
them for their informed consent. I will explain the research program and describe how I will
gather the results that I am seeking. No risk of harm will be subject to the participants outside of
their regular exercise program whether it is running or CrossFit exercise. I will make sure the
participants understand that the risk they already choose to take by running or exercising will
stay the same and that I will not have them doing any additional running or exercise. The
privacy/confidentiality section will also be in the document. It will state that their results and
personal information will only be available to researchers involved in the study and will not be
released to anyone outside of the research project for any reason. The results will be shared with
the public with anonymity and statistics and percentages will be used rather than names. For the
purpose of gathering the data, the participants interviews and surveys will be labeled with their
choice of exercise (i.e. running or CrossFit), their frequency of exercise, whether they are male
or female and their age. I will attempt to keep identity as anonymous as possible. When
gathering and collecting the data, I will ensure that the researchers involved are clear on what is
expected of them and that their conduct is professional and respectful.


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exerciseprogramspecificallyforstressmanagement. A way of sharing this new information
would be to have it distributed in a type of pamphlet or booklet and have it available for clients
of therapists, counselors, and doctors. Having the booklets available in workplaces can help get
the new information into the hands of those who need it most. Understanding the differences
between aerobic exercise and constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement type
exercise will give personal trainers, doctors, and individuals who are looking to improve or
change up their stress management exercise techniques. This information would also stimulate
others to begin research studies on the topic (University of Manchester, n.d.).

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American Psychological Association. (2013). Stress Statistics. Retrieved from:
Jerath, R., Edry, J., Barnes, V., Jerath, V. (2006). Physiology of Long Pranayamic Breathing:
Neural Respiratory Elements May Provide a Mechanism That Explains How Slow Deep
Breathing Shifts the Autonomic Nervous System. Medical Hypotheses. 67:3 pp 566-571
OBrien, M., Baime, J. (2011). National Science Foundation. Teens and Stress. Retrieved from:
OHara, D. (2012). Dealing With Sandys Stress Thru CrossFit. Retrieved from:
Matthews, T. (2011). Designing and Conducting Research in Health and Human Performance
(1st ed). Jossey-Bass.
Retrieved from
Paul, S. (2011). How Often Should I Run? Retrieved from:
Seaward, B. (2008). MANAGING STRESS 6E VITALBOOKS (6th ed). Jones & Bartlett
Learning. Retrieved from:

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Tennant, V. (2005). The Powerful Impact of Stress. Retrieved from:
University of Manchester. (n.d.). Research Benefits. Retrieved