I was talking to a friend about ways to reduce test anxiety. Regularly exercising came up as a possibility. But it is complicated because long-term exercise typically makes the BODY less responsive to sympathetic activation, while also upregulating the sympathetic response itself. So a highly trained athlete may actually secrete more epinephrine in response to a given stimuli, but the effect on his/her body will be reduced. This is why test-anxiety comes in- because the effect on the brain is unclear. Is the brain less responsive to adrenaline after a 4-5 month period of regular exercise?
Also, long-term periods of being sedentary can weaken the sympathetic response- astronauts for example after returning from space frequently have poor sympathetic responses due not bearing any weight for sometimes weeks at a time. One symptom of this is orthostatic hypotension. Maybe this lack of a highly functioning sympathetic system would actually be a BENEFIT for reducing acute anxiety.
I dunno, someone help me sort this out!
Regular exercise makes the body less responsive to sympathetic activation which results is lower blood pressure and pulse. I have seen athletes with resting rates in the 40's and bp around 85-100 systolic. These physiologic changes would help manage test anxiety.
Now, the sedentary-related effects of space travel will interfere with sympathetic function but astronauts are highly trained individuals ( they have the right stuff ) who can take just about any kind of physiological abuse in stride.
Regular exercise is so great for management of stress that we recommend it along with rest and a balanced diet.