Physical Activity and its Associations with Sociodemographic Characteristics, Dietary Patterns, and Perceived Academic Stress in Students Attending College in Puerto Rico

Sonia Y. Cruz, Carla Fabián, Ideliz Pagán, Josué L. Ríos, Anaisa M. González, Jesmari Betancourt, Michael J. González, Winna T. Rivera-Soto, Cristina Palacios


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.


physical activity; academic stress; dietary pattern; college students

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