The role of physical activity on the link between stress, burnout, and well-being in athletic trainers.
Pacewicz CE, Rowley TW, and Savage JL. J Athl Training. 2022. Epub ahead of print. DOI: 10.4085/1062-6050-0160.2
An athletic trainer who walked longer for leisure may be more likely to report less stress and better well-being.
Stress can lead to burnout among sports medicine clinicians. Furthermore, burnout can lead to physical and psychological distress. Physical activity can mitigate stress and improve well-being in the general population, but investigators have not examined this relationship among athletic trainers.
Pacewicz, Rowley, and Savage, completed a cross-sectional study to examine the relationships between physical activity (moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and leisure-time walking) and athletic trainers’ perceptions of stress, burnout, and well-being.
The researchers collected data using an online survey from a sample of 163 practicing, certified athletic trainers (127 women, 22-60 years old, 79% employed in a traditional setting). Participants completed the International Physical Activity Questionaire (IPAQ) to assess physical activity behaviors; a modified version of the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) to assess the level of stress at work; the Malach Burnout Inventory – Human Services Survey to measure perceptions of emotional exhaustion, personal accomplishment, and depersonalization; and the Satisfaction with Life Scale to measure subjective well-being. The completion rate was 78%. The authors wanted to test the idea that physical activity could reduce stress, which would reduce burnout (emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, lower personal accomplishment) and thus improve someone’s well-being. A future trial could also help confirm whether these findings are driven by people who don’t have the time for leisure-time walking having worse outcomes OR people who genuinely benefit from walking.
On average, the participants reported working ~51 hours/week, performing 277 minutes/week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, and walking 185 minutes/week. Despite the authors’ hypothesis, minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity had no relationship with stress. However, more minutes spent walking related to lower perceived stress and less exhaustion, which in turn related to better well-being.
Interestingly, walking time and not moderate-to-vigorous physical activity related with less stress and enhanced well-being. This finding contradicts other studies on physical activity and burnout. However, walking may represent a more accessible form of physical activity, making it easier for professionals to implement. Despite this unique finding, all other findings align well with previous literature. These findings should not undermine the potential health benefits associated with moderate-to-vigorous activity. Instead, they should highlight that for athletic trainers walking may be an accessible form of physical activity to help reduce stress and burnout. However, ideally, we would need a clinical trial to demonstrate that walking can cause improvements in mental well-being among athletic trainers and what the optimal dose may be.
Athletic trainers should integrate leisure-time walking into their routine to reduce stress and burnout.
Questions for Discussion
Do you walk for leisure? If so, what do you enjoy the most about walking for leisure – getting a chance to exercise, be alone, talk with a friend?
Written by: Kyle Harris
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban