Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Human Movement Sciences


Exercise Science

Committee Director

Patrick B. Wilson

Committee Member

Laura Hill

Committee Member

Gena Gerstner


The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of a two-week relaxing music intervention on stress, anxiety, and gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms in exercisers with at least mild anxiety and exercise-related GI symptoms. Block randomization was used to allocate 15 women and two men into control (n = 8) or intervention (n = 9) groups following a one-week baseline. During the baseline period, participants recorded details of their aerobic exercise sessions and discomfort with GI symptoms (nausea, regurgitation/reflux, stomach fullness, bloating, abdominal cramps, gas, the urge to defecate). Following randomization, both groups tracked these same details for two additional weeks. Intervention participants were tasked with listening to 30 minutes of relaxing music per day from five pre-selected playlists and record their adherence, engagement, and perceived relaxation. Pre- and post-intervention assessments included perceived stress scale (PSS-14), general anxiety disorder questionnaire (GAD-7), and visceral sensitivity index (VSI) scores. PSS-14, GAD-7, and VSI scores were normally distributed, so a mixed ANOVA analysis was used to compare time, group, and time x group effects, and effect sizes were reported as partial eta squared (ηp2). Significance was set at p < 0.05. Participants in the music group reported that they found the intervention to be relaxing and engaging on a 1-10-scale (Engagement = 7.3±0.9; Perceived Relaxation = 7.2±1.5). No statistically significant group, time, or interaction effects were found for GI symptoms at rest, exercise-related GI symptoms, and PSS-14, GAD-7, or VSI scores. Considering resting GI symptoms, the effect size for a time x group interaction was large (ηp2 = 0.198). Resting GI scores went from 25.6±10.9 to 20.4±10.5 in the music group, compared to from 15.0±14.3 to 15.1±12.1 in the control group. Other notable effect sizes include time effects for resting GI symptoms (ηp2 = 0.183), exercise-related upper GI symptoms (ηp2 = 0.151), and PSS-14 scores (ηp2 = 0.146), all of which indicate potential pre-to-post reductions. Given the relatively high ratings of relaxation and engagement reported with the intervention and the observed effect sizes, further research is warranted on relaxing music as a means to reduce GI symptoms, anxiety, and stress in exercisers.


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