Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Degree Level



Health, Human Performance and Recreation


Howie-Hickey, Erin

Committee Member/Reader

Elbin, Robert


Background: Increased physical activity has been shown to be beneficial in decreasing stress. This project will expand on this knowledge while also studying college students, a demographic that has been less studied. This study will also examine the impact of COVID-19 on these variables. COVID-19 changed many peoples’ activities of daily life, and possibly physically activity levels, due to public health measures such as lockdowns and remote learning. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected physical activity, sleep, and mental health in university students, faculty and staff and to examine the relationship between theses variables. Methods: Participants were recruited through their previous participation in the Exercise is Medicine study as we compared their previous year’s data to this year’s data. Participants completed an online questionnaire on the Qualtrics platform consisting of the IPAQ[EH1] [ZP2] [ZP3] [ZP4] [ZP5] , Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Instrument, and DASS-21. To provide an objective, device-based measurement, self-reported physical activity and sleep were compared with Actigraph GT9x accelerometers worn 24 hours a day for 7 days. Paired T-tests were used to compare normally distributed variables (sleep) and Wilcoxon signed-rank tests were used to compare non-normal outcome variables (physical activity and mental health). Results: 38 participants completed the post survey (23 faculty/staff, 8 graduate students, 7 undergraduate students). Pre-COVID, total physical activity was 2,978.9 (SD 3,334.3) METmin/week and post-COVID was 4,281.2 (SD 4,758.3) METmin/week which was statistically different (p=0.01). When examined by type of physical activity, only domestic and leisure and not active transport or work physical activity were different with domestic (p=.008) and leisure (p=.02) physical activity increasing post-COVID. Pre-COVID, PSQI score was 5.3 (SD 3.1) and post-COVID was 5.6 (SD 3.0) METmin/week which was not statistically different (p=0.42). Due to changes in the questionnaire over years, only 9 participants had pre- and post-mental health measures. There were no statistical differences in mental health pre- and post-COVID. Conclusion: There was a statistically significant difference in the amount of physical activity, with participants completing more physical activity after the start of the pandemic compared to before the start. Physical activity increased the most in leisure and domestic activities. There was not a statistical difference in the amount of active transport or work physical activity. These results are similar to previous findings in the literature as people spent more time at home due to reduced schedules and commitments. We did not find a statistically different change in mental health measures pre and post COVID-19, however this could be due to a small sample size. At this time, we cannot draw any conclusions about the relationship between physical activity and stress. We can however show that the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in physical activity in certain types of activities.


Stress, physical activity, mental health, sleep, COVID-19