Exploring trajectories of physical activity and symptoms of ill-being in university students


Researchers have largely examined physical activity as an antecedent to ill-being symptomology (Rebar et al., 2015; Rosenbaum et al., 2014). Based on a few previous studies, we examined if the relationship between physical activity and symptoms of ill-being was reciprocal over time. University students (N = 280 in the final model; Mage = 20.53 years; SD = 5.07) completed measures of physical activity (Godin & Shepard, 1985) and symptoms of ill-being (Radloff, 1977; Spitzer et al., 2006) at three time points once per month. Using latent growth modeling, we found that physical activity (Mintercept = 51.89, p < .001, variance = 614.8, p <.001; Mslope = 2.73, p = .07, variance fixed to zero due to a negative residual) and ill-being (Mintercept =1.06, p <.001, variance = .29, p <.001; Mslope = .031, p = .18, variance = .04) did not change over time. Controlling for age and gender, initial physical activity was unrelated to change in symptoms of ill-being (b =.001, p = .36). Initial symptoms of ill-being were unrelated to change in physical activity (b = -3.60, p =.29). Researchers should replicate these findings using larger sample sizes and more direct indicators of physical activity (e.g., accelerometers) that may be more sensitive to capturing change. Researchers may also wish to include additional time points to account for non-linear changes in physical activity and ill-being over a semester.