Research Paper (Honors)
Stress, Fitness & Health among College Students
The objective of this study is to examine the relationships between stress, gender, eating habits, fitness, body image and overall health. The method used in conducting this study was to have 50 participants complete an online survey based on their daily eating and fitness habits, stress, response to stress, and body image. The findings of this study were that unhealthy eating habits are not 100% influenced by stress but rather by convenience. However, people who are stressed are more likely to consume unhealthy foods like fast foods and desserts. Healthy habits such as exercising and cleaner diets are shown to be beneficial in dealing with and avoiding stress. In addition, consistency of these practices increase self-esteem and promote longevity by decreasing obesity.
Stress is inevitable and occurs in everyone especially during college. Unfortunately, stress yields many negative factors which cause additional chains of unfavorable outcomes. It impairs cognitive levels causing people to make bad decisions and raises insulin levels causing the body to store more fat. Studies have shown that people who are under stress are more likely to practice unhealthy habits like drinking, smoking, and using drugs. (Linsky et al., 1985).
These responses link to physical and psychological problems like depression, eating disorders, loss of motivation, insomnia and death. (Wilburn & Smith, 2005) Stress is also one of the leading causes of obesity in America. Past studies have shown that stress is a definite factor in one’s weight gain. (Wardle, Chida, Gibson, Whitaker, Steptoe, 2011). Males and females are shown to respond differently both physically and emotionally during periods of stress. A study found males to be more physically active when stressed (Al-Kandari & Vidal, 2007). Other studies found that women prefer to talk about their feelings more when stressed, whereas men tend to avoid or conceal problems. (Yeh et al., 2009) Many studies seem to find that physical activity helps a lot in coping and lowering stress in one’s life. (Strong et al., 2005). There has also been a correlation with high levels of physical activity and higher self-esteem and body image. It is important to promote healthier practices to promote a healthier mindset and promote longevity in America. Other research has found that healthy habits give individuals higher defenses from various diseases, cancers, and obesity. (Mokdad, Marks, & Stroup, 2005). There are many beneficial outcomes of healthy habits. Furthermore, I hypothesize that lack of sleep, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diets yield to stress. Stress would then cause one to make unwise decisions such as smoking, drinking, and using drugs. I also hypothesize that males and females will have different coping methods for stress and that more women overall will report being stressed.
The sample included students who are enrolled in a Psychology 2, a research methods class at City College of San Francisco. A total number of 50 people, 18 male (36%) and 32 female (64%). The ages of the participants range from 18-53 (mean age of 23.9)
Designs and Materials:
The participants were given a survey consisting two open ended and sixteen closed ended question related to stress, their eating and fitness habits, and overall lifestyle. To be more specific, the first five questions (1-5) examine the causations and reactivity of participants put in stressful situations such as loss of sleep. The next two questions (6&7) examine participants’ general eating habits, and then compared to question 8 to see if stress has an impact itself. The next five questions (9-13) examine how much the participant exercises and values physical activity (healthy lifestyle habits). To measure levels of value, the participants were asked on a 1 (not at all important) to 5