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The Effectiveness of Exercise in Relieving College Student Stress

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Every college student manages stress differently. Some students have no problem de-stressing after finals, while others suffer from anxiety and stress every semester and even after graduating.

This study proposal examines if stress management therapies are enhanced with the inclusion of exercise in the counseling of college students and whether or not some types of exercise are more effective than others at relieving stress.

Does the inclusion of exercise in counseling increase effectiveness in treating stress?

When young adults enter college, many are unprepared for the added stress of becoming a university student. There are many resources at the disposal of students to help them manage their stress. From resources on campus like counseling services and writing labs to external resources like essay writing services and personal tutors, there are ways to cope with stress in college.

This study will attempt to discover if stress management therapies are enhanced with the inclusion of exercise in the counseling of college students. Using the Student Life-Stress Inventory-Revised, students’ stress levels will be compared before counseling and after counseling, one group receiving counseling with exercise and one group receiving counseling without exercise.

Types of exercise will also be compared to learn if exercise as an overall prescriptive would be effective with counseling techniques, or some physical activities are more effective at relieving stress than others. This study proposal examines if stress management therapies are enhanced with the inclusion of exercise in the counseling of college students and whether or not some types of exercise are more effective than others at relieving stress.

This blog post will uncover:

  • the problems of college students and stress management,
  • how college students can manage stress while getting their degrees,
  • sources of college student stress and methods to manage college stress,
  • solutions for managing stress in college,
  • past research in different types of exercises prescribed to mitigate stress in college students will be elucidated,
  • and the purpose of this study, research question and justification of its viability, and hypothesis and justification of its viability.

Stress factors associated with college

The problem of college students and stress was widely explored in the 1990s and into the year 2000. Ross, Neibling, and Heckert (1999) stated that stress is a negative reaction containing negative feelings, such as anxiety, sadness, frustration, nervousness, etc. to different life situations and events. In a study of stress, state Ross et al. (1999), one must account for the interaction of different interpersonal factors of people and how they relate to their environmental pressures. People do not react the same way to different life situations.

Learning new things in a short span of time

Generally, students are expected to acquire a great deal of knowledge in a window of time, then produce proof of that knowledge via tests or term papers within a deadline. Students can be under constant pressure to perform, and more frequently than in the workplace, stated Ross et al. (1999).

Retaining large quantities of information in different subject matters is not an easy feat, especially when being consistently tested on newly acquired knowledge. Students stressed out by demanding studies and constant testing can turn to a tutor. Many universities offer tutoring services, which can be especially useful when a professor is busy helping hundreds of other students.

However, most college tutors and writing labs have off hours and don’t accommodate every schedule. For many students, turning to an external resource like an essay writing service has proven to be helpful. Online writing services are available 24/7, so students can turn to them anytime, anywhere.

Ambiguous instructions

“Other stress factors associated directly with the college environment include ambiguous assignments and instructions, overwhelming assignment load, and uncomfortable learning environments,” stated Ross et al. The best way for every student to learn and retain new knowledge is not uniform and what works for one student may not work for another.

This is another of the main reasons many students turn to essay writing services for help. Most essay writing services connect students to writers with college degrees and experience. Professional writers are familiar with assignments and instructions, making them great sources of help and knowledge. Students can even buy essay samples to use as an example of what the assignment should look like. For many students, seeing an essay sample written by a professional is enough to guide them in the right direction when navigating ambiguous assignments.

Social life stressors

Ross et al. stated, there are considerable transitional stressors specifically associated with college, such as being in an alien environment, having to make new friends, and lack of structure differing from some childhood environments. For typical students, the transition from high school to college is a drastic change. An even more drastic change is for adults who return to college to pursue their degree after being part of the workforce.

Moreover, Misra and McKeon (2000) stated, students often have to contend with other types of stress as well as the stress induced from the college environment, which can compound problems for students, such as daily stressors, relationship stress, health-related stress, and job related stress if a student must work his or her way through college. There’s also the added stress of student loans and employment and income inequality for college students.

Also, students can put considerable stress on themselves in earnest to perform well, stated Misra and McKeon. Ross et al. stated the interaction of interpersonal factors and the college environment must be determined in order to understand if the college environment is responsible for causing the stress, or if it is the college student’s reaction to stressful situations that is responsible.

Active ways to manage stress

From various bodies of research, more studies were oriented to discover the strategies that could help students with stress management, such as time management techniques and interpersonal counseling. Exercise has been studied separately, although there aren’t as many studies pertaining to exercise as a stress mitigating technique as other technique. However, the smaller body of research is informative.

For instance, Berger and Owen (1988) found that assigning exercise as a general prescriptive might not be effective. As Berger and Owen discovered, some exercises are more effective for stress reduction than others. Berger and Owen compared swimming, fencing, hatha yoga, and body conditioning as modes of exercise to reduce stress. Berger and Owen found that swimming, fencing, and body conditioning were not effective in reducing stress. While yoga was the only exercise that reduced stress. With the stress of midterms, college students have to focus on reducing their stress effectively.

In more recent years, the martial arts have been studied to understand the effectiveness of soft styled forms, such as Tai Chi (or Tai Ji). For example, Wang, Taylor, Pearl, and Chang (2004) conducted their research upon college students to assess if having Tai Chi training has a positive effect on health, overall well-being, and mental health. They found that mental health scores increased significantly after three months of Tai Chi training.

From reviewing the existing literature on the subject of the effectiveness of exercise in mitigating college students’ stress, one can see there is still a lot one can learn on the subject. Types of exercises and their effectiveness on stress levels have been studied, but not so much to specifically address the stressful environment of college.

Moreover, one would be hard pressed to find literature on whether or not exercise should be included within a counseling program as one of the strategies to manage stress, and if it is included, if it is something that can be applied liberally and without censure, or if only certain types of exercises should be recommended for stress reduction.

There aren’t any studies that are aimed to see if exercise enhances a college’s counseling protocol for stress. This study will strive to understand the relationship of exercise, the effects it has upon stress in conjunction with counseling techniques, and whether or not school counselors should be recommending certain types of exercises that are better at helping students manage stress.

The research methods of this study will be explained in the following sections. An explanation of this study’s quantitative nature will be expressed within the introduction of the research design. The purpose of the study will be described, followed by the research question, the participants, and the hypothesis.

The best way to research college stress and exercise

According to Creswell (2014), quantitative research describes studies testing two variables to learn whether or not a correlation exists between two variables. As Creswell stated: “Quantitative research is a means for testing objective theories by examining the relationship among variables. These variables can be measured, typically on instruments, so that numbered data can be analyzed using statistical procedures. (p. 247)”

An efficient counseling program with exercise could be a life changing resource for college-level students. The best study will strive to discover if exercise increases the effectiveness of counseling protocols in helping college students manage stress. Two protocols would be offered to students. The control group would be offered a counseling protocol that excludes the use of exercise as a technique to manage stress. The experimental group’s protocol will include exercise as a tool to use in the management of stress.

The Student Life-Stress Inventory-Revised would be used to measure the outcomes of the control group and the experimental group. The Student Life-Stress Inventory-Revised has been shown to have validity, according to Gadzella, Baloglu, Masten, and Wang (2012).

Creswell (2014) stated the research design of a quantitative study must include a purpose statement for the research. The rest of this section will describe the purpose statement, including a description of the participants and the place the research is going to occur, the research question, and the statement of the hypothesis, followed by the conclusion.

Purpose statement when researching exercise and college stress

According to Creswell (2014), the purpose statement for quantitative research includes “the variables in a study and their relationship, the participants in a study, and the site for the research” (p. 247). The following is a description of those elements.


College students seeking counseling to learn how to handle stress will be put into two groups. One group, the control group (dependent variable), will receive counseling without the exercise component. The experimental group will receive counseling with the exercise incorporated into the protocol (independent variable).


The setting for this study is within the university setting. The study will be conducted within the university counseling services department.


University counseling services would advertise for a stress reduction program and garner willing volunteers to participate. Each participant would be provided informed consent. Each student would then be randomly chosen to participate in the control group and the experimental group. The students in the experimental group would be provided with a list of exercise options they can select. The control group’s results will be compared with the experimental group’s results using the Student Life-Stress Inventory – Revised. Within the experimental group, the exercise modes will also be compared with each other to see which exercises were most effective in stress reduction.

Research questions

Creswell (2014, p. 247) defined a quantitative research question as “interrogative statements that raise questions about the relationship among variables that the investigator seeks to answer.”

The research questions for this study are:

  • Does the inclusion of exercise as a strategy for alleviating stress enhance counseling outcomes?
  • If so, which types of exercises yielded the best results for stress reduction?


In quantitative research, according to Creswell (2014), hypotheses “are predictions the researcher makes about the expected relationship among variables” (p. 247). Forming a hypothesis is one of the five steps for writing a professional research paper. The hypothesis for this study is described below, H0 being the null hypothesis and H1 being the alternate hypothesis:

Null hypothesis (H0) Alternative hypothesis (H1)
The inclusion of exercise in counseling protocols designed to help college students manage stress does not enhance counseling outcomes. The inclusion of exercise in counseling protocols designed to help college students manage stress enhances counseling outcomes.
There is not any discernable difference between types of exercise in their effectiveness for stress reduction. There is a difference between types of exercise in their effectiveness for stress reduction.

Conclusions and recommendations

This post describes a quantitative analysis in the attempt to discover if stress management therapies are enhanced with the inclusion of exercise in the counseling of college students, the results being measured using the Student Life-Stress Inventory-Revised, an instrument that was found to be a valid tool in assessing college related stress.

The introduction describes the literature related to college student stress and presented the main thrust of the study. The research describes why this study is quantitative in nature, the purpose of the study, the participants, the place of research, the research question, and the hypothesis. This research will add to the growing need for students to learn how to manage the stress of the university environment effectively.

College students and stress was studied widely in the 1990s. However, , there are still subjects that can be researched and covered within this topic. Recommendations for future directions in research include continuing to validate therapies for college students and stress that are tailored specifically to the college environment and the stress factors associated within that environment.

Find a writing service to mitigate your stress

A great writing service can help relieve stressors, such as ambiguous instructions, information overload, and tight deadlines. A professional essay writer has overcome the trials and tribulations of the college experience. With their knowledge, writers can crack the code behind the instructions of ambiguous assignments and essays. Like any professional, professional writers meet any deadline no matter how tight it may seem.

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Berger, B. G. & Owen, D. R. (1988). Stress reduction and mood enhancement in four exercise modes: Swimming, body conditioning, hatha yoga, and fencing. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sports, 59(2), 148-159.

Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Sage Publications.

Gadzella, B. M., Baloglu, M., Masten, W. G., & Wang, Q. W. (2012). Evaluation of the student life-stress inventory-revised. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 39(2). Retrieved from http://www.questia.com/library/1G1-321057798/evaluation-of-the-student-life-stress-inventory-revised

Misra, R. & McKean, M. (2000). College students’ academic stress and its relation to their anxiety, time management, and leisure satisfaction. American Journal of Health Studies, 16(1). ISSN: 65640245.

Ross, S. E., Neibling, B. C., & Heckert, T. M. (1999). Sources of stress among college students. College Student Journal, 33(2), 312-317.

Wang, Y. T., Taylor, L., Pearl, M., & Chang, L. S. (2004). Effects of tai chi exercise on physical and mental health of college students. American Journal of Chinese Medicine; 32(3), 453-9.



Ultius, Inc. "The Effectiveness of Exercise in Relieving College Student Stress." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. Ultius Blog, 20 Sep. 2019. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/effectiveness-exercise-college-stress.html

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Ultius, Inc. (2019, September 20). The Effectiveness of Exercise in Relieving College Student Stress. Retrieved from Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services, https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/effectiveness-exercise-college-stress.html

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Ultius, Inc. "The Effectiveness of Exercise in Relieving College Student Stress." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. September 20, 2019. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/effectiveness-exercise-college-stress.html.

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Ultius, Inc. "The Effectiveness of Exercise in Relieving College Student Stress." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. September 20, 2019. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/effectiveness-exercise-college-stress.html.

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