The Impact of Physical Activity on Mental Health of Health Science Students

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Mental disorders are the main source of worry to the public health. Recently, there has been an increase in people affected by mental disorders. This increase can be linked to various reasons among them lack of physical activity. In this paper, we studied the impact physical activity has on psychological health of HS200 students.

It is hypothesized that physical activity among students will improve their psychological well-being. 

The independent variable in this paper is physical activity while the dependent variable is psychological health.


During the fall of 2018, questionnaires bearing specific question were administered to students. The students were allowed freedom to respond to closed question system in the questionnaires. Data was collected and analyzed using analysis of variance in Microsoft excel.

This was an experimental survey, as the researchers were able to manipulate the independent variable among the students that took part in the study. Some of questionnaires were administered to physically active students while others were administered to less active students to determine their perception towards the physical activities.

Redesigning the study into a cross-sectional study would help achieve more information on the effects of physical activity on mental health.  Cross sectional study allows different groups of people that have different opinion on the independent variable to express other features that can help improve the outcome of the study. In the case of this study, instead of using closed system questionnaire to collect data, the class could have used the open-ended questioners where every study participant would have been allowed to share their experiences and views on the study subject.

The mental health of students was measured based on the type and intensity of the physical activity the students engaged in. these were moderate activities, vigorous activities and strength training. The moderate and vigorous physical activities were measured in terms of minutes per week in which the participants were involved for exercises while the strength training exercises were based on number of days the participants were involved. All these activities were correlated to the scores of mental health of students.

The physical activity was measured by the number of exercises completed and the distances covered in moderated to vigorous sessions. The strength training exercise was measured by introducing the students to several strength training exercises and determining their tolerability in terms of days of exercises taken.

The advantage of using surveys to collect data is high representation. Surveys allow the researcher to gather as much information as possible from the general population. The data collected offer great description of the population. The major weakness of using surveys in collecting data is that surveys designs are inflexible. From the beginning of the survey, method of administering surveys and gathering data cannot be changed in case of any eventuality.

Physical activity can best be measured by self-report questionnaires. These questionnaires rely on participant recall ability. The measure the duration, mode and frequencies in which a participant is involved in the physical activities. Questionnaires also offer the best way to report the collected data and quality of data is usually high. They are easily administered and cost effective.


The total population of HS200 students is 2000 but only 484 students participated in the study. The sample size n was 405 in which 30.6 percent were male (124) while 281 (69.4 %) were female students. Most of the participants (168 – 41.5%) were in their first year in college (freshman). A large number of students were in their early years of study as seen in table 1: 98-23.% sophomore, 100-24.7%, and 39- 9.6% while others were 4 representing 1%. Participants from the Health sciences were more than any other group in the college, while more participants were off-campus residents.

As evident in table 2, the participants were aged between 17 years and 51 years, with average age being 20.1 years, had a GPA ranging between 0-4.8 with the mean being 3.37 and credit averaged between 8 -15. The findings of this study are not generalizable. They are specific to health science students. This is because many of the participants were from HS200 major. The impact of physical activity on OU students may not be determined only by using a representative sample from one major. Different students have different levels of physical activities and other factors that may affect their mental health (WHO, n.d).

The weekly averages for moderate and vigorous physical activities are 252.0 and 171.4 minutes per respectively. The aerobic physical activity of the HS2000 students’ averages are higher than the recommended physical activities minutes per week. This means that the HS2000 did more exercises. According to World Health organization, at least 150 minutes of moderate and 75 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity should be achieved (WHO, n.d).

The benefits of the above figures in students is that they have lower rates of all-cause mortality, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cancer, stroke, and depression. Individuals also have healthier body mass index and likely to achieve their weight targets.

The average for psychological health is 27.07 which is till with the normal score ranges of mental health. Stronger mental health increases the level of physical activity of an individual.

The r-value and p-value for moderate physical activity were 0.061 and 0.227 respectively. There is a negative correlation between physical activity and mental health. While the p-value is higher that the p<0.05, meaning the correlation is statistically insignificant.

On strength training, the r-value is 0.65 while p-value is 0.195. The correlation is positive correlation while the probability of the correlation coefficient is statistically insignificant since it is above 0.05.

Physical activity has a great impact on physical health. Correlation and causation, since this was a biological activity, the statistic do not matter.

The hypothesis was not supported by the statistics. This may have been caused by incorrect responses by the participants

From table 5, men had more minutes of physical activity that female. Male tend to do more exercises than female. In moderate physical and vigorous physical activity, male had higher minutes than female, considering that they were fewer than females. The p-value was 0.0005 and 0.000 which is statistically significant. In strength training, males still scored higher than females. This is expected as males do more strenuous exercises than females.


Exercise has been shown to favor mental health. The effects of physical activity in alleviating mental stress and depression are elaborate. According to WHO, mental health is improved by regular exercising. Physical exercises also was found to eliminate anxiety among young adults (WHO, n.d).

During treatment of mental disorders, physical exercise was found helpful, especially in chronic mental disorders such as depression. Exercises remains the best alternative to pharmacological therapies (Gingell, 2018). Regular exercises enhance certain brain regions by increasing the flow and supply of blood to these areas, which in turn get supply of glucose and signifies their growth (Gingell, 2018).


Gingell, S. (2018). Why Exercise Is So Essential for Mental Health. Psychology today. Retrieved from

Sylvia, L. G., Bernstein, E. E., Hubbard, J. L., Anderson, E. J., & Keating, L. (2014). Practical guide to measuring physical activity. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114, 2, 199-208.

WHO. (n.d). Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. World health organization. Retrieved from

August 09, 2023



Mental Health Illness

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