Academic Stress in University Students: The Role of Physical Exercise and Nutrition

Healthcare (Basel). 2023 Aug 26;11(17):2401. doi: 10.3390/healthcare11172401.


The university experience can cause academic stress that, in turn, can lead to comorbidities. Students increasingly face demands and challenges that require a large amount of physical and psychological resources. These circumstances can make them experience physical and mental fatigue, lower their interest in studying, and even lead them to lose control over their academic performance and health. The objective of this work is to determine the relationship between the practice of physical exercise, eating patterns, and academic stress among university students. A questionnaire was administered to 742 students using non-probabilistic sampling. The mean age was 21.24 (DT = 3.8), and 20.1% were men and 79.4% were women. To identify academic stress, the Stress Manifestation Scale of the Students Stress Inventory (SSI) subscale was used; the Mediterranean Diet Score was applied for eating patterns, and the practice of exercise was measured by weekly hours of exercise. The results show that there is a relationship between academic stress and physical exercise, but not with adherence to the Mediterranean Diet. However, there is a relationship between the consumption of "unhealthy" foods exceeding the recommendations for the Spanish population and academic stress. In short, physical activity and diet are variables that are related to psychological well-being. Therefore, they should constitute the backbone of actions designed by university managers to eliminate or reduce stress suffered by students. Finally, the work demonstrates the need to create new scales that consider not only the foods that help alleviate stress but also their portions.

Keywords: Mediterranean; diet; physical activity; stress.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.