The influence of physical activity courses on stress and anxiety in students at a Hispanic-serving community college

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Dianne M. Habring-Frehlich (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Jennifer Etnier

Abstract: While the severity of college student mental health concerns and the demand for services are increasing (Jones et al., 2018; Watkins et al., 2012), chronically underfunded Hispanic-serving institutions (HSI) (HACU, 2012; Merisotis & McCarthy, 2005) are struggling to meet the mental health needs of their students (ACHA, 2021; Katz & Davison, 2014). This mixed-methods study evaluated the influence of college physical activity courses on the stress and anxiety of students at an HSI community college. Students (n=215) enrolled in a physical activity course and a health lecture class completed pre-, mid-, and post-program surveys to assess stressors (Stressor Questionnaire), coping strategies (BriefCOPE), stress (Perceived Stress Scale, PSS), and anxiety (Beck Anxiety Inventory, BAI-II). Results showed that the frequency with which education and academics were reported as stressors increased in the lecture group and decreased for students in the physical activity class. The physical activity class had a significant decrease in the use of self-blame and a significant increase in the use of instrumental support. Both groups had high pre-program means for stress (23.46 ±6.00) and anxiety (17.34 ±13.76) in comparison to norms. Physical activity students experienced significant (p<.001) reductions in anxiety across the course that moved them below the clinical threshold. The physical activity course students experienced significantly higher reductions in anxiety over the lecture group. Along with the exercise activities included in the physical activity class programming, participants reported that increased accountability, stress management strategies, distraction, and physical benefits helped reduce stress and anxiety. The findings highlight the value of physical activity courses as a component of general education for the physical and mental health of students, especially those at an HSI who report higher than average stress and anxiety.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2022
Anxiety, College, Exercise, Hispanic, Physical Activity, Stress
Hispanic American community college students
Stress management
Physical education and training

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