Cardiorespiratory fitness protects against stress-related symptoms of burnout and depression

Patient Educ Couns. 2013 Oct;93(1):146-52. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2013.03.021. Epub 2013 Apr 25.


Objective: To examine how cardiorespiratory fitness and self-perceived stress are associated with burnout and depression. To determine if any relationship between stress and burnout/depression is mitigated among participants with high fitness levels.

Methods: 197 participants (51% men, mean age=39.2 years) took part in the study. The Åstrand bicycle test was used to assess cardorespiratory fitness. Burnout was measured with the Shirom-Melamed Burnout Questionnaire (SMBQ), depressive symptoms with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HAD-D). A gender-matched stratified sample was used to ensure that participants with varying stress levels were equally represented.

Results: Participants with moderate and high fitness reported fewer symptoms of burnout and depression than participants with low fitness. Individuals with high stress who also had moderate or high fitness levels reported lower scores on the SMBQ Tension subscale and the HAD-D than individuals with high stress, but low fitness levels.

Conclusion: Better cardiovascular fitness seems to be associated with decreased symptoms of burnout and a better capacity to cope with stress.

Practical implications: Promoting and measuring cardiorespiratory fitness can motivate employees to adopt a more physically active lifestyle and thus strengthen their ability to cope with stress exposure and stress-related disorders.

Keywords: Burnout; Cardiorespiratory fitness; Depression; Gender; Mental health; Stress; Submaximal fitness test; Åstrand bicycle test.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Exercise Test / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Fitness / psychology*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden / epidemiology