Horton, LaShawn

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Mental health concerns are on the rise among the college-aged student. College students face a great deal of stress, which can lead to depression and anxiety. Nursing students, as a sub-group of college students, are under even greater stress related to rigorous course work and the responsibility of caring for other people, which can lead to greater depression and anxiety. This study aimed to determine what effect, if any, physical activity has on depression and anxiety scores using the PHQ-9 and GAD-7 instruments in pre-nursing and nursing students. In this study, physical activity is defined as is “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure-including activities undertaken while working, playing, carrying out household chores, travelling, and engaging in recreational pursuits…: (WHO 2018).

Pre-nursing and nursing students at Union College (UC), in Lincoln, NE, were invited to participate in a 6-week quasi-experimental study. The participants completed a survey that included the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7) instrument; demographic information also was collected. The participants completed 30 minutes of physical activity three days a week over the 6-week period. At the conclusion of the 6 weeks, the participants repeated the PHQ-9 and the GAD-7 and answered two qualitative questions evaluating their experience.

The analysis has shown a strong correlation between physical activity and decreased depression and anxiety scores. All scores decreased and the themes in the answers to the qualitative questions showed an improvement in mental health. Future research should expand this strategy to multiple colleges and universities and include all college students.

Keywords: nursing students, physical activity, stress, depression, anxiety