Physical activity and its associations with sociodemographic characteristics, dietary patterns, and perceived academic stress in students attending college in Puerto Rico

P R Health Sci J. 2013 Mar;32(1):44-50.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exercise*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Puerto Rico
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological* / epidemiology
  • Students*
  • Universities
  • Young Adult