Stress levels and cultural considerations affect how much and for what reasons college students exercise, according to research presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual meeting.
One study, conducted by Rafer Lutz, Ph.D., found that college-aged women who do not exercise regularly are even less likely to be physically active when under stress. But those with consistent exercise levels accumulate more physical activity when experiencing similar emotions.
“I think our study suggests, more than anything, varying perceptions of exercise,” Lutz said.
“Someone who isn’t regularly active may view exercise as ‘one more burden’ when stressed, whereas those who make it a part of daily life may view it as a stress reliever and an escape from pressure.”
A second study examined exercise differences between more than 400 students American and Chinese college students. Researchers found that Americans typically exercise for weight control and physical appearance, while the Chinese exercise more for health and enjoyment reasons.
“These results reinforce the complexity of exercise behavior change, particularly among diverse and multicultural groups,” said lead study author Zi Yan, M.S.
“Although we didn’t study the origins of these exercise motivations, it may be a reflection of cultural values and what young people are taught to prioritize about themselves.”
ACSM guidelines support the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which recommend that adults participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, which can be achieved in 30-minute segments five days a week.