Relationship Between Physical Activity and Stress Among Junior High School Students in the Physical Education Environment


  • David C. Barney Brigham Young University
  • Francis T. Pleban Tennessee State University
  • Terrance Lewis



Stress, Physical Education, Junior High School Student


The purpose of this study was to explore grade-level differences (7th, 8th, and 9th) among junior high school students’ perceptions of the effects of participation in physical education (PE) class on individual environmental stress. The role of physical activity as a stress reduction tool has been well documented. However, physical activity as a stressful event in the school and PE environment has been less established, particularly in junior high school students. Study participants comprised 872 junior high school students, 585 males (67%) and 287 females (33%), enrolled in four junior high schools. Stratified by grade, 315 seventh-grade (228 males, 87 females; M = 1.28, SD = .448), 281 eighth-grade (204 males, 77 females; M = 1.27, SD = .447), and 276 ninth-grade (153 males, 123 females; M = 1.45, SD = .498) students responded. By grade level, significant differences (p < .05) were reported for five of the 12 scaling questions. In general, seventh graders were more likely to respond they could better handle stress after participating in PE class, to look forward to coming to their PE class, to report lower stress levels before arrival to PE class, and to report lower stress levels after participation in PE class than were eighth and ninth graders. Altogether, follow-up qualitative findings reported three major themes regarding the PE environment and stress. PE acted as a stress mitigation mechanism and an opportunity for social bonding. Qualitative findings also referenced classmates as a negative stress mechanism in the PE environment. Subscribe to TPE

Author Biographies

David C. Barney, Brigham Young University

I have been in higher education since 2001.  I have taught at North Dakota State University, Oklahoma State University and presently at Brigham Young University.  I taught in the Utah & Florida  public school systems for 6 years.

Francis T. Pleban, Tennessee State University

Associate Professor at Tennessee State University