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International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health

Editor-in-Chief: Merrick, Joav

Editorial Board: Birch, Diana ML / Blum, Robert W. / Greydanus, MD, Dr. HC (Athens), Donald E. / Hardoff, Daniel / Kerr, Mike / Levy, Howard B / Morad, Mohammed / Omar, Hatim A. / de Paul, Joaquin / Rydelius, Per-Anders / Shek, Daniel T.L. / Sher, Leo / Silber, Tomas J. / Towns, Susan / Urkin, Jacob / Verhofstadt-Deneve, Leni / Zeltzer, Lonnie / Tenenbaum, Ariel

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Vigorous physical activity, perceived stress, sleep and mental health among university students from 23 low- and middle-income countries

Supa Pengpid
  • ASEAN Institute for Health Development, Mahidol University, Salaya, Thailand
  • Department of Research Development and Innovation, University of Limpopo, Polokwane, South Africa
  • Other articles by this author:
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/ Karl Peltzer
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Research Development and Innovation, University of Limpopo, Polokwane, South Africa
  • HIV/AIDS/STIs and TB Research programme, Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa
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  • Other articles by this author:
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Published Online: 2018-01-13 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijamh-2017-0116



Vigorous physical activity (VPA) may be beneficial for mental health. The aim of the study was to investigate cross-sectional associations between VPA, perceived stress, sleep quality and quantity and mental health among university students.


In a cross-sectional study, using anonymous questionnaires, data was collected from 15122 (42.1% male and 57.9% female) university students [mean age 20.6, standard deviation (SD) = 2.0] from 23 countries in the Americas, Africa and Asia. They were assessed using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (short version), and measures of sociodemographic, health status, health behaviour and anthropometrics.


Students who met VPA recommendations were less likely to report perceived stress, more likely to report subjective good health and depression than students without VPA. There was no association between VPA and sleep quality and quantity and PTSD symptoms.


This study only found partial benefits of VPA in relation to well-being of university students.

Keywords: Africa; anxiety disorder; Asia; cross-sectional; depression; health status; IPAQ; Latin America; perceived stress; sleep; university students; vigorous physical activity


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About the article

Received: 2017-07-11

Accepted: 2017-07-18

Published Online: 2018-01-13

Competing interests: The authors declare that they have no competing interest.

Citation Information: International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 20170116, ISSN (Online) 2191-0278, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijamh-2017-0116.

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