The transition to college is associated with higher levels of internalizing symptoms (i.e. depression, stress, anxiety) and weight gain. Physical activity may reduce the risk of weight gain among college freshman. Our study aims to examine the individual relations between internalizing symptoms and weight gain during students’ first semester in college and if physical inactivity exacerbates these relations. College freshman (N=65, 72% female; 72% White) were part of a larger longitudinal study examining the effect of stress on weight gain during the first year of college. Internalizing symptoms were assessed using DASS-21 depression, anxiety, and stress subscales (α=.84,.79,.84). Physical activity frequency was assessed using two self-reported items from the Arlington Physical Activity Survey. The overall model was trending toward significance, F(3, 61)=2.20, p=.097. However, depressive symptoms predicted more weight gain in students with low levels of physical activity. Physical activity significantly moderated this relation, F(1, 61)=5.63, p< .05. Among college freshman, higher levels of depressive symptoms and stress may increase risk for weight gain at the end of the first semester. In addition, physical inactivity may exacerbate the risk for weight gain among freshman experiencing higher levels of depressive symptoms. Future research should consider the possible benefits of physical activity for freshman experiencing depressive symptoms entering college.
Ms. Clarissa Shields
Dr. Amy Sato
The transition to college is associated with higher levels of internalizing symptoms and weight gain. Our study aims to examine the relation between internalizing symptoms and weight change and if physical inactivity exacerbates these relations. College freshman (N=65, 72% female; 72% White) as part of a larger study examining stress during their first semester reported internalizing symptoms using the DASS-21 depression, anxiety, and stress subscales (α=.84,.79,.84) and physical activity frequency. The only significant positive relation was between depressive symptoms and weight change with physical activity significantly moderating this relation predicting weight gain, F(1, 61)=5.63, p< .05.