Physical Activity, Stress, & Sexual Behavior: The Role of Exercise in Sexual Health of Undergraduate Students
This Honors Thesis was conducted to examine and possibly influence the relationships between physical activity, stress, sexual self-concept, and sexual behavior in a sample of Connecticut College undergraduates. Prior research has shown conflicting results regarding physical activity, stress, and sexual behavior. While physical activity has been found to decrease stress and decrease sexual risk behavior in some contexts (Faurie et al., 2004; Wetherill & Fromme, 2007; Frauman, 1982; Park et al., 2021; Mor, et al., 2014), other research has also found that physical activity can increase both stress and sexual risk behavior (Vuori et al., 2011; Kulig et al., 2003; Quinn & Fromme, 2011). Most of the prior literature has also focused on student athletes or individuals who regularly exercise.
This study was conducted in two parts. The first part included an exercise intervention with sedentary undergraduate students. Participants in the exercise group walked for a 20-minute period once a day during at least 3 days of the week at the Connecticut College Fitness Center. Findings were not significant in this small sample intervention study. The second part was a correlational study that analyzed the relationships between physical activity level, stress, sexual self-concept, and sexual behavior in a sample with varying degrees of physical activity. Bivariate analyses revealed significant relationships between both sexual self-perception and sexual self-esteem, and sexual risk behavior and sexual self-perception. Group differences based on physical activity level were also found for sexual risk behaviors and perceived stress. These relationships point to the possible usefulness of creating exercise interventions to help decrease sexually risky behaviors and increase sexual health on undergraduate campuses.
Berkeley, Emily, "Physical Activity, Stress, & Sexual Behavior: The Role of Exercise in Sexual Health of Undergraduate Students" (2023). Psychology Honors Papers. 93.
Available for download on Monday, May 22, 2023
The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.