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Effects-of-Exercise-on-Perceived-Stress-Levels-of-College-Students

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Effects-of-Exercise-on-Perceived-Stress-Levels-of-College-Students

  1. 1. Running Head: PERCEIVED STRESS AND EXERCISE IN COLLEGE STUDENTS 1 Effects of Exercise on Perceived Stress Levels of College Students Examining Differences in Self-Reported Aerobic Activity and Stress Jacqueline L Hirn University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  2. 2. PERCEIVED STRESS AND EXERCISE IN COLLEGE STUDENTS 2 Abstract The college environment is, perhaps, among the most challenging and diverse places young adults can find themselves at. It is within the university’s prerogative to educate and maintain a healthy student population to ensure academic success. Additionally, the detriments of sedentary lifestyles are constantly popping up in media reports around the country. Today it is well-known that a lack of physical activity is harmful to ones physical fitness and health. However, less examined are the effects of physical activity on mental health. As mental health is vital for academic success, this study is aimed to examine how activity levels affect stress levels. To examine this, stress and physical activity levels were collected from 112 University of Illinois students via survey. The results showed a decrease in perceived level of stress as exercise amounts increased; however, when more than an hour of exercise was reported the stress levels spiked. The potential benefits the study found could provide the university an additional reason to advocate and educate students of the benefits of physical activity and healthy living.
  3. 3. PERCEIVED STRESS AND EXERCISE IN COLLEGE STUDENTS 3 Effects of Exercise on Perceived Stress Levels of College Students Examining Differences in Self-Reported Aerobic Activity and Stress The aim of this study was simply that of an exploratory nature; it aimed to observe basic trends within a representative population of students regarding stress—a large factor of mental health—and physical activity. There have been many formal studies conducted examining the relationship in college students between physical activity, overweight, obesity, and diet. The 2003 study done by Huang and associates effectively summarized many of the concerns we know as a matter of fact within this campus setting—most college students do not meet daily physical activity and dietary guidelines. Other studies have found approximately half (40% to 50%) of college students are physically inactive and ventured to say that the study of college students’ physical activity levels has been seriously neglected in modern research (Keating, 2005). Ever increasingly, the data have led us to see that lack of physical activity is detrimental to health in increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, overweight, and even certain cancers within the college population. Strangely not very many studies examined the tolls a sedentary lifestyle had on mental health. The goal of this study was to examine how levels of physical activity related to perceived stress. Procedure and Survey Design The data was collected via a five-question survey with the six multiple choice questions asking the participant to select their gender, number of credit hours, types of exercise, duration of exercise, class status, and perceived level of stress. The survey was sent out to students from a class advisor to university emails and then distributed to additional students to gain a larger pool. Physical activity duration included four options: under 20
  4. 4. PERCEIVED STRESS AND EXERCISE IN COLLEGE STUDENTS 4 minutes, 20 to 40 minutes, 40 minutes to an hour, or more than an hour. Participants chose the one that most accurately described them most of the time (at least four days a week). Stress levels were also quantified into four categories: 2 (mild to no stress), 3 (moderate stress), 4 (barely manageable stress), and 5 (stress potentially affecting health). The descriptors for the stress levels were present to aid in quantifying perceived levels, however, it should be acknowledged that stress is an extraordinarily subjective subject material. In addition, forms of activity were provided to choose from as well and included walking to class/bus, treadmill/weight training, athletic or sports training, skating/long- boarding to class, or other (yoga, dance, etc.). The survey was entirely voluntary, but incentive was supplied to entice participants. The order of questions and the order of the provided responses were randomized to reduce biases and the completed responses were compiled into a spreadsheet and analyzed. Analysis Once the data were received the stress levels were first split and averaged according to potential confounders. Of all 112 participants, the average stress level was 3.35. When split between males and females, a surprising difference was seen. Within females (n=82), the stress level was an average of 3.41 while in males (n=30) the stress level averaged 3.17. Looking back at the whole data, the splits between students’ year in school showed some differences. Sampled first-years averaged a stress level of 3.13 (n=28), second-years averaged 3.43 (n=40), third-years averaged 3.42 (n=28), fourth-years averaged 3.55 (n=9), fifth-years averaged 3.50 (n=2) and graduate students averaged 3.00 (n=4). Finally, the exercise durations and stress levels held the following results: those who had under 20 minutes of activity had an average of 3.39 for stress (n=51), those who fell in the 20 to 40
  5. 5. PERCEIVED STRESS AND EXERCISE IN COLLEGE STUDENTS 5 minute bin had an average of 3.28 (n=31), those who had 40 minutes to one hour of activity averaged 3.23 (n=21) and those that reported over an hour of activity averaged 3.42 (n=7). The relationship between class credit hour load and stress did not bear a significant correlation. Discussion The finding the study was aimed to examine was the peculiar decrease in stress levels from those who had under 20 minutes of activity a day to those who reported 40 minutes to an hour of activity a day. When plotted, there is a strong, negative linear relationship (r=-.977) between the three bins of participants’ activity duration increasing and their stress level decreasing. The final bin of those who participated in more than an hour of activity had average stress levels that spiked above the rest of the sample. The types of activity these groups participated in went under scrutiny. Of those in the under 20 minutes category, 84.6% report their only physical activity as walking to class or to the bus. Of those who reported 20 to 40 minutes of activity, 40.6% of respondents only walk to class or the bus. In the 40 minutes to an hour category, 9.1% of respondents only walked to class or to the bus. Additionally, of those who were in the lowest duration of activity only 5.7% of respondents reported any form of running or strength training while as the duration increased to 40 minutes to an hour of activity, the percentage of those who ran or strength- trained increased to 86.0%. Unfortunately, it is difficult to discern the effects of the differences between the duration of activity and the type of activity that affect stress levels in students. It would be a point of further research to examine the differences between acute bouts of aerobic exercise (such as 15 minutes on a treadmill) and more vigorous bouts of aerobic exercise (perhaps 30 minutes on a treadmill).
  6. 6. PERCEIVED STRESS AND EXERCISE IN COLLEGE STUDENTS 6 The final bin of respondents only contained seven participants who reported more than an hour of physical activity apiece. Of these seven, every single respondent listed athletic or sports training as their primary activity. In the study, these seven made up for all but one (87.5%) of the reported athletic or sports training participants. While it is uncertain from the data, these seven may be part of one of our varsity sports teams that require vigorous training regimens and the additional training and class may be the reason for the unusual spike. However, more research should be conducted in athletes and stress levels to examine the validity of this statement. Relation and Application to Community Health This study just begins to scratch the surface of the importance of physical health for mental health. If the study were to be expanded into geriatrics to examine the implications of activity and cognitive aging, the results could be community changing. With repetition and new evidence to expand the study’s brief findings, the campus community could benefit greatly. The results would give ground to establish a new educational program for students to promote the many aspects of health often overlooked and the linkage between these areas of health. In application, the study can be used to improve the health of students as a whole as well as increasing the list of known benefits of physical activity. Other Areas for Further Study The findings pose several other interesting points. The difference in male and female stress levels is noticeable, however, the female sample was nearly three times as large as the male sample. The differences here could be attributed to sampling errors. Yet, a new area of study could be examined in the differences in how females internalize and cope with stress as compared to their male counterparts. Stress compared with years poses a differing
  7. 7. PERCEIVED STRESS AND EXERCISE IN COLLEGE STUDENTS 7 standpoint. First-years had the lowest sampled average stress level, while second and third-years were nearly identical with their respective levels. Fourth-year students appeared the most stressed. Perhaps the relatively low levels of stress in first-years are being confounded by an outlying factor such as university housing accommodations, lack of graduate school applications, or lack of the ability to legally obtain alcohol (and for some, legally enter campus bars or hangouts). Further study could be conducted in these areas to establish additional trends and eliminate existing confounders.
  8. 8. PERCEIVED STRESS AND EXERCISE IN COLLEGE STUDENTS 8 References Huang, T., Harris, K., Lee, R., Nazir, N., Born, W., & Kaur, H. (2003). Assessing overweight, obesity, diet, and physical activity in college students. Journal of Americal College Health, 52(2), 83-6. Retrieved December 2, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov Keating, X., Guan, J., Piñero, J., & Bridges, D. (2005). A meta-analysis of college students' physical activity behaviors. Journal of American College Health., 54(2), 116-25. Retrieved December 2, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov McKenzie, J., Pinger, R., & Kotecki, J. (2015). An Introduction to Community Health (8th ed.). Jones and Bartlett.
  9. 9. PERCEIVED STRESS AND EXERCISE IN COLLEGE STUDENTS 9 Appendix A Raw Data What year in school are you? How many credit hours are you currently enrolled in? On average, what types aerobic exercise do you do on a daily basis? (Select all that apply.) On average, how long do you exercise a day? On a scale from two to five, how stressed would you describe yourself? What is your gender? Senior (fourth- year) 18 Walking to class 20 minutes to 40 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 12-13 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class 20 minutes to 40 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Male Senior (fourth- year) 16-17 Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training 40 minutes to an hour 3 (moderate stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 14-15 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training 20 minutes to 40 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 16-17 Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training, Sports training 40 minutes to an hour 5 (stress potentially affecting health) Female Senior (fourth- year) 16-17 Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training, Sports training 40 minutes to an hour 4 (barely manageable stress) Male Senior (fourth- year) 19+ Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class 20 minutes to 40 minutes 5 (stress potentially affecting health) Female Senior (fourth- year) 14-15 Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 18 Walking to class 20 minutes to 40 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 16-17 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 18 Walking to class Under 20 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 14-15 Walking to class 20 minutes to 40 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 18 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Sports training 40 minutes to an hour 3 (moderate stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 16-17 Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training, Sports training More than an hour 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 14-15 Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training 40 minutes to an hour 3 (moderate stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 14-15 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training 40 minutes to an hour 3 (moderate stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 16-17 Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training Under 20 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Female
  10. 10. PERCEIVED STRESS AND EXERCISE IN COLLEGE STUDENTS 10 Senior (fourth- year) 18 Walking to class, Sports training More than an hour 3 (moderate stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 16-17 Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training 40 minutes to an hour 3 (moderate stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 19+ Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 16-17 Just walking/running to the bus Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 16-17 Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training More than an hour 2 (mild stress) Male Senior (fourth- year) 18 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 14-15 Other (skating, yoga, etc) 20 minutes to 40 minutes 2 (mild stress) Male Senior (fourth- year) 16-17 Walking to class 20 minutes to 40 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Male Senior (fourth- year) 14-15 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Sports training 40 minutes to an hour 4 (barely manageable stress) Male Junior (third- year) 14-15 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class 20 minutes to 40 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Graduate Student 16-17 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Sophomore (second-year) 16-17 Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training, Sports training More than an hour 3 (moderate stress) Male Junior (third- year) 19+ Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training, Sports training 40 minutes to an hour 3 (moderate stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 16-17 Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training, Other (skating, yoga, etc) 20 minutes to 40 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Male Junior (third- year) 14-15 Sports training Under 20 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Male Sophomore (second-year) 16-17 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class 20 minutes to 40 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Junior (third- year) 19+ Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Male Sophomore (second-year) 16-17 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Junior (third- year) 18 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Other (skating, yoga, etc) More than an hour 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Junior (third- year) 16-17 None, Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 18 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 12-13 Walking to class, Other (skating, yoga, etc) 20 minutes to 40 4 (barely manageable stress) Female
  11. 11. PERCEIVED STRESS AND EXERCISE IN COLLEGE STUDENTS 11 minutes Junior (third- year) 14-15 Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Graduate Student 16-17 Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Super-Senior (fifth-year) 16-17 Walking to class Under 20 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Male Sophomore (second-year) 18 Walking to class, Other (skating, yoga, etc) More than an hour 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Sophomore (second-year) 12-13 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Male Freshman (first- year) 14-15 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Sophomore (second-year) 12-13 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Male Sophomore (second-year) 14-15 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 5 (stress potentially affecting health) Female Senior (fourth- year) 19+ Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class 20 minutes to 40 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Freshman (first- year) 16-17 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class 20 minutes to 40 minutes 5 (stress potentially affecting health) Female Sophomore (second-year) 12-13 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class 20 minutes to 40 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Male Freshman (first- year) 14-15 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Male Sophomore (second-year) 16-17 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training 40 minutes to an hour 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Junior (third- year) 16-17 Walking to class Under 20 minutes 2 (mild stress) Female Sophomore (second-year) 14-15 Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training 20 minutes to 40 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Male Junior (third- year) 12-13 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training, Sports training, Skate/longboarding, Other (skating, yoga, etc) 40 minutes to an hour 3 (moderate stress) Male Sophomore (second-year) 14-15 Just walking/running to the bus Under 20 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Sophomore (second-year) 18 Walking to class 20 minutes to 40 minutes 2 (mild stress) Female Freshman (first- year) 12-13 Just walking/running to the bus, Treadmill/weight training Under 20 minutes 2 (mild stress) Female Freshman (first- year) 14-15 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female
  12. 12. PERCEIVED STRESS AND EXERCISE IN COLLEGE STUDENTS 12 Sophomore (second-year) 16-17 Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training, Other (skating, yoga, etc) 40 minutes to an hour 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Freshman (first- year) 16-17 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Other (skating, yoga, etc) 40 minutes to an hour 3 (moderate stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 14-15 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Freshman (first- year) 14-15 Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Sophomore (second-year) 18 Just walking/running to the bus Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Sophomore (second-year) 16-17 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Sophomore (second-year) 14-15 Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Freshman (first- year) 14-15 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training 20 minutes to 40 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Male Freshman (first- year) 14-15 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Other (skating, yoga, etc) 20 minutes to 40 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Male Freshman (first- year) 16-17 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class 40 minutes to an hour 3 (moderate stress) Female Freshman (first- year) 14-15 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training, Other (skating, yoga, etc) 40 minutes to an hour 2 (mild stress) Female Freshman (first- year) 16-17 Walking to class, Other (skating, yoga, etc) Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Junior (third- year) 14-15 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Other (skating, yoga, etc) Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Junior (third- year) 14-15 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 5 (stress potentially affecting health) Female Sophomore (second-year) 14-15 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Other (skating, yoga, etc) Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Freshman (first- year) 18 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Sophomore (second-year) 16-17 Walking to class Under 20 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Junior (third- year) 12-13 Other (skating, yoga, etc) Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Male Freshman (first- year) 16-17 Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training 20 minutes to 40 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Male Junior (third- year) 16-17 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Sophomore (second-year) 16-17 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class 20 minutes to 40 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female
  13. 13. PERCEIVED STRESS AND EXERCISE IN COLLEGE STUDENTS 13 Freshman (first- year) 16-17 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Freshman (first- year) 12-13 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class 40 minutes to an hour 3 (moderate stress) Male Junior (third- year) 18 Walking to class Under 20 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Sophomore (second-year) 14-15 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training, Sports training 20 minutes to 40 minutes 2 (mild stress) Male Sophomore (second-year) 12-13 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Sports training 20 minutes to 40 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Sophomore (second-year) 16-17 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Sophomore (second-year) 14-15 Walking to class Under 20 minutes 5 (stress potentially affecting health) Female Junior (third- year) 16-17 Treadmill/weight training 40 minutes to an hour 3 (moderate stress) Male Freshman (first- year) 18 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training, Other (skating, yoga, etc) 20 minutes to 40 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Sophomore (second-year) 19+ Walking to class, Other (skating, yoga, etc) Under 20 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Freshman (first- year) 18 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training, Other (skating, yoga, etc) 20 minutes to 40 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Junior (third- year) 12-13 Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training, Skate/longboarding 20 minutes to 40 minutes 2 (mild stress) Male Freshman (first- year) 16-17 Other (skating, yoga, etc) 20 minutes to 40 minutes 2 (mild stress) Male Sophomore (second-year) 16-17 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Sophomore (second-year) 18 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training, Other (skating, yoga, etc) 40 minutes to an hour 5 (stress potentially affecting health) Female Freshman (first- year) 14-15 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Junior (third- year) 14-15 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Freshman (first- year) 16-17 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Other (skating, yoga, etc) 20 minutes to 40 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Junior (third- year) 16-17 Just walking/running to the bus Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Male Junior (third- year) 14-15 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 5 (stress potentially affecting health) Male Sophomore (second-year) 18 Walking to class, Other (skating, yoga, etc) 40 minutes to an hour 2 (mild stress) Female
  14. 14. PERCEIVED STRESS AND EXERCISE IN COLLEGE STUDENTS 14 Junior (third- year) 14-15 Walking to class, Other (skating, yoga, etc) 20 minutes to 40 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Freshman (first- year) 16-17 Treadmill/weight training 40 minutes to an hour 2 (mild stress) Male Sophomore (second-year) 18 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training, Sports training 40 minutes to an hour 3 (moderate stress) Female Sophomore (second-year) 16-17 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training More than an hour 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Freshman (first- year) 14-15 Walking to class, Skate/longboarding Under 20 minutes 5 (stress potentially affecting health) Male Sophomore (second-year) 12-13 Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training, Other (skating, yoga, etc) 40 minutes to an hour 3 (moderate stress) Female Freshman (first- year) 16-17 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training 20 minutes to 40 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Senior (fourth- year) 14-15 None, Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class Under 20 minutes 3 (moderate stress) Female Junior (third- year) 16-17 Just walking/running to the bus, Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training 20 minutes to 40 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Junior (third- year) Under 12 Walking to class Under 20 minutes 4 (barely manageable stress) Female Freshman (first- year) 14-15 Walking to class, Treadmill/weight training 20 minutes to 40 minutes 2 (mild stress) Female

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