Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science




Dr. J. Kevin Shoemaker

2nd Supervisor

Dave Humphreys



Exercise improves anxiety and depression, both of which are associated with impaired autonomic regulation of heart rate (HR). In turn, HR variability (HRV) is a reliable physiological indicator of external stressors. The following research tested the hypothesis that HRV is indicative of chronic resilience towards mental stress in female varsity hockey players. Seventeen varsity hockey players (HOCK, age 21 ± 1.5) and fifteen healthy controls (CTRL, age 21 ± 2.2) at Western University participated three times throughout a 7-month season. Participants completed questionnaires (brief resilience scale, BRS; generalized anxiety scale, GAD-7; mental health inventory, MHI; visual analog scale, VAS; short form 36-item health survey, SF-36). Five-minute measures of HRV, root mean square of successive R-R intervals (RMSSD), were calculated from NREM sleep. RMSSD improved alongside BRS, MHI, and GAD-7 scores in HOCK group, with no change in CTRL group. Results suggest heavy training improves HRV, resilience, and mental health outcomes.