The effect of health locus of control and perceived stress on physical activity and body mass index of North Texas community college students
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Physical inactivity remains one of the primary cofactors that contribute to overweight and obesity, leading to an increased risk of premature morbidity and mortality. Current data suggest that sedentary behavior begins during adolescence and is maintained through college for most students. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of health locus of control and perceived stress on physical activity and body mass index among college students. Additional covariates of gender and ethnicity were also analyzed with respect to the dependent variables. A second purpose was to assess perceived stress levels and stress coping mechanisms among college students. A third purpose was to determine physical activity patterns among diverse college students. Over five hundred community college students attending the Southeast Campus of the Tarrant County College District (TCCD) participated in the study using an online survey format. Students responded to demographic questions and the following instruments: Multidimensional Health Locus of Control Scale, Perceived Stress Scale, and the National College Health Risk Behavior Survey. Correlational findings indicated weak but significant relationships between the following: internality and physical activity (positive), perceived stress and physical activity (negative), and internality and perceived stress (positive). "Talking to Friends/Family", "Listening to Music", and "Physical Activity" represented the most common stress coping techniques for this sample of college students. Multiple logistic regression analyses indicated internals were more likely to engage in moderate physical activity compared to externals. Also, females were more likely to have lower body mass index values compared to males. Prevalence of physical activity in this sample of community college students was similar to national data. The results of this study appear to indicate that physical activity and social support are chosen by college students to attenuate stress levels. However, the rationale for selecting these coping strategies and the mechanisms that underlie psycho-physical health among diverse college students remain unclear.