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Exercise Science | Sports Sciences


Trista Olson


A moderate to high prevalence of depression, anxiety, and stress have been found in undergraduate students. Physical activity has been shown to decrease anxiety, depression, and stress. Examining the impacts of physical activity on the mental health of college students might show to be beneficial. PURPOSE: To assess if self-reported physical activity levels impact depression, anxiety, and stress levels in college students. METHODS: A total of 92 college students from private institutions in central Minnesota completed an online survey. The survey collected demographics including age, gender, height, weight, and year in school. The International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) was used to assess physical activity and the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale-21 (DASS21) was used to assess depression, anxiety, and stress. The IPAQ and DASS21 surveys were scored and participants were placed into three groups based on reported MET-minutes per week. Groups were categorized as low physical activity (LPA), moderate physical activity (MPA), and high physical activity (HPA). All three subscales of the DASS21 we utilized measuring depression, anxiety, and stress. A one-way ANOVA was used to evaluate the physical activity levels and depression, anxiety, and stress. A Fisher’s Least Significant Difference (LSD) post-hoc test was conducted. RESULTS: There was a significant main effect of physical activity on depression, F(2, 89) = 7.958, p < .001, specifically between the LPA (11.4 ± 10.6) and HPA (5.5 ± 5.3) groups, p < .05 and between the MPA (11.3 ± 7.7) and HPA (5.5 ± 5.3) groups, p < .001. There was no statistical significance between groups for anxiety, F(2, 89) = 1.127, p = .329 or stress, F(2, 89) = 1.520, p = .224. CONCLUSION: Individuals who were in the HPA group reported the lowest depression scores, suggesting that if students participate in physical activity for approximately 3 days of vigorous activity or 7 days of combined walking, moderate-intensity, and high intensity-intensity activities a week then they would have less depression symptoms.