Adam Williamson, Ashley Licata, Joni Boyd, Jessie B. Hoffman. Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC.

BACKGROUND: College represents a time of changing habits for many individuals. Exercise is well established to impact gastrointestinal health, but little research has been conducted to assess this in college students. Thus, the objective of this pilot study was to assess the current exercise and gastrointestinal habits in college students. A secondary objective of this study was to identify potential relationships between exercise and gastrointestinal habits in this population. METHODS: This cross-sectional survey was conducted at a small public Southeastern University in Spring 2021. 183 students completed the survey with the average age being 22.2 years old. Survey questions assessed demographics, exercise history and current exercise level, gastrointestinal habits (Bowel Health Questionnaire), and sleep. Data was collected using Qualtrics and analyzed using SPSS and GraphPad Prism. T-tests, and one-way ANOVAs were run to analyze potential relationships between exercise and gastrointestinal habit variables. Statistical significance was set at p<0.05. RESULTS: On average, students reported participating in 2.47 days of vigorous exercise, 3.21 days of moderate exercise, and 3.58 days of light exercise over the past 7 days. Individuals who met the ACSM guidelines for vigorous exercise for least 3 days per week had significantly more episodes of gas in the past month compared to those who did not meet the guidelines for vigorous exercise (p=0.004). No statistically significant relationships were observed between other gastrointestinal habit parameters and exercise frequency (mild/light, moderate, or vigorous). One major finding was that 11.4% of individuals reported gastrointestinal symptoms preventing them from starting or completing a physical activity or exercise session at some point in the past 30 days. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, this study establishes a baseline understanding of exercise and gastrointestinal habits in college students at a small, public, Southeastern university. Relationships between certain gastrointestinal symptoms and exercise were observed. Additional research should be conducted using more specific measures of exercise and gastrointestinal habits. Future studies should also assess interventions to minimize gastrointestinal symptoms to allow greater participation in physical activity.

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