Perceived stress, stress management, and vigorous physical activity among college students
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Obesity is a public health concern and obesity rates increase from adolescence to adulthood. Therefore, the period between 18-24, known as emerging adulthood, may be a crucial period in the development of obesity. Physical activity (PA) is one component of obesity and levels of physical activity decline significantly during emerging adulthood. Additionally, stress is inversely associated with PA, with greater levels of PA associated with lower levels of stress. While most research has focused on whether or how PA may improve stress, much less has focused on how the experience of stress may be related to levels of PA. The limited existing research with a focus on the latter has found that stress negatively impacts PA. However, even less research has examined the associations between stress and vigorous PA (VPA) in emerging adulthood, a crucial period in the development of obesity. Additionally, research as not explored the potential role of perceived stress management ability in the relationship between perceived stress and VPA. Linear regression analyses were run to examine the relationship between perceived stress and days and minutes of past week VPA among first-year college students and to test whether the relationship between perceived stress and VPA was moderated by perceived stress management ability. In unadjusted models, perceived stress was significantly negatively associated with both minutes and days of VPA, indicating that perceived stress may be a barrier to VPA, but in models adjusted for gender and body mass index (BMI), these associations were no longer significant, indicating that there was no association between perceived stress and VPA taking into account gender and BMI. Moderation of the relationship between perceived stress and VPA was not found, indicating that and that the relationship between perceived stress and VPA did not differ by perceived stress management ability in this population. These results are inconsistent with previous research that has found a significant negative relationship between perceived stress and physical activity. Additionally, gender was significantly associated with minutes of VPA. Possible reasons for the inconsistency of these findings and previous research, along with limitations of the current study and future directions are discussed.