The Influence of Exercise Empowerment on Life Stress

Tonya M. Parker, Colleen A. Lewis, Christina M. Beaudoin


Background: Psychological stress – when an individual perceives that the environment exceeds their ability to meet the demands placed on them - is common in college students and exercise, and specifically instructional physical activity courses, is frequently cited as a one method of stress reduction. Objective: Determine any relationship between exercise empowerment and perceived life stress for those participating in instructional physical activity courses (IPAC). Methods: All undergraduate students (n = 3388) enrolled in IPAC in 15-week IPAC at a large university were surveyed on perceived life stress (PSS), empowerment in exercise (EES), and specific demographic variables. Results: 944 of 3388 enrolled students (Nov. 2015, April 2016) completed the survey. The data revealed GPA (p < 0.002), sex (p < 0.000), and EES (p < 0.001) showed differences for PSS. It was determined that EES, sex, and GPA predicted PSS differently for students according to their year in college. Conclusions: For freshman and seniors, sex and lower GPA were a stronger predictor of PSS with no mitigating effect of exercise empowerment. For sophomores and juniors the level of life stress was lower at higher levels of exercise empowerment. These findings support a complex relationship between exercise empowerment and life stress. While exercise is cited as a method for stress reduction the relationship between exercise empowerment and life stress for college-aged students is not as straightforward as it may seem.


Exercise, Life Stress, Physical Activity, Empowerment, University

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