D. Howard, E. Dunston, J. Hammermeister, K. Taylor

Eastern Washington University, Cheney, WA

The benefits of physical activity (PA) are well-established, yet over half of university students do not meet PA guidelines. While the relationship between PA and stress has been examined in undergraduate students, little research has investigated this relationship in graduate students. PURPOSE: To determine the relationship between PA, sedentary behavior (SB), and stress in graduate students. Additionally, differences in stress across PA levels were investigated. METHODS: Graduate students (n=67; age 27.5±7.8 years) completed an online survey. PA and SB were measured using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire and Sedentary Behavior Questionnaire, respectively. Stress was measured using Cohen’s Perceived Stress Scale. Pearson’s product moment correlations and linear regressions were used to determine relationships among variables. Independent samples t-tests were used to determine stress differences. All data were analyzed in SPSS v25.0 with an alpha level set at 0.05. RESULTS: Weekly time spent in vigorous PA was negatively associated with stress independent of age, sex, and hours worked per week (β=-0.01, R2=0.15, p=0.02). Time spent in SB (p=0.30), moderate PA (p=0.07), and walking (p=0.87) were not associated with stress. However, SB while reading and completing office work on the weekends was positively associated with stress, independent of moderate PA and walking (β =0.28, R2=0.13, p=0.03) but not vigorous PA (p=0.06). Moreover, students meeting PA guidelines (i.e., ≥150 min/week of moderate or 75 min/week of vigorous PA) reported significantly lower stress (15.0±6.6) than those not meeting guidelines (20.4±6.0; pCONCLUSION:Vigorous, but not moderate PA or walking, was negatively associated with stress. Further, students meeting PA guidelines reported lower stress. These results suggest PA, particularly vigorous PA, may be important related to graduate student’s stress. Additionally, time spent in SB while reading and completing computer work was positively associated with stress, suggesting that this may be an important factor in graduate student’s stress levels. Future research may benefit from a longitudinal study design and objective measures of PA to overcome current study limitations and determine whether manipulating PA and SB effects stress levels.

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