Sonia Y. Cruz, MHSN, LND; Carla Fabián, MHSN, LND; Ideliz Pagán, MHSN; Josué L. Ríos, MHSN; Anaisa M. González, MHSN, LND; Jesmari Betancourt, MHSN; Michael J. González, DSc, FACN, PhD; Winna T. Rivera-Soto, PhD, MPH, LND; Cristina Palacios, PhD, MS, LND
Objective: The academic environment usually generates stress in students. Increasing physical activity (PA) is one of the stress-coping strategies for students; however, students usually reduce their PA while enrolled in college. Objective: To determine the association between PA, self-perceived academic load and stress, and dietary patterns in students attending college in Puerto Rico.
Methods: A proportional stratified sample of 275 students from UPR-MSC completed a self-administered questionnaire on socioeconomic status, academic load and stress, body composition, dietary patterns, and PA. Chi² was used to assess the association between variables.
Results: Most of the participants were female (68%), were aged 21 to 30 years (88%), and had low annual household incomes ($0-$24,999) (43%). Women reported higher levels of stress (p<0.001) than did men. Overweight and obesity was found in 35.4%, while most students reported a light PA level (46.5%), which was higher among women (p<0.001). During periods of greater stress, most students increased sedentary activities (68%), and ~30% reported a decrease in moderate and vigorous activities; however, 60% reported that PA was an effective coping strategy and 66% would use it again. There was a negative association between PA and stress: those with higher levels of stress had lower PA levels (p = 0.06). No significant associations were found between PA and the others variables studied (p>0.05).
Conclusion: Most students reported sedentary lifestyles during periods of greater stress. High level of stress were positively associated with a light PA level.