Georgia Prevention Institute, Department of Pediatrics, Medical College of Georgia, USA.
Background: The moderating effect of physical activity (PA) on relations between chronic stress and adiposity is unknown in youth.
Purpose: The objective is to assess the mediating effect of PA on relations between stress and adiposity in youth.
Methods: Participants were 303 youths (47% Black, 53% White, 50% male, M age = 16.6 years). The Adolescent Resource Challenge Scale assessed personal stress, whereas median rent or mortgage in the neighborhood reflected community stress. Body mass index (BMI) and sum of skinfolds reflected general adiposity, and waist circumference measured central adiposity. Days per week performing PA sufficient to work up a sweat measured PA.
Results: Hierarchical regressions predicted each adiposity measure adjusting for age, race, gender, family socioeconomic status, and parental smoking. Independent contributions of personal stress, but not community stress, were found on BMI and sum of skinfolds. A similar model showed that both personal and community stress predicted waist circumference. PA was independently, inversely associated with sum of skinfolds but not BMI or waist circumference. The interaction between PA and personal stress predicted all three adiposity measures. The interaction of PA with community stress predicted BMI.
Conclusions: PA appears to buffer the effects of chronic stress on adiposity, providing evidence that PA is a protective factor for health.
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