Who Uses Exercise as a Coping Strategy for Stress? Results From a National Survey of Canadians

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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To examine the prevalence of exercise as a coping behavior for stress, compare this to other coping behaviors, and examine its demographic, behavioral, and health correlates in a nationally representative sample of Canadians.


We used data from the Canadian Community Health Survey 1.2, a cross-sectional survey of 36,984 Canadians aged 15 and over, and conducted univariate and logistic regression analyses to address our objectives.


40% of Canadians reported using exercise for coping with stress (ranked 8th overall). These individuals were more likely to endorse other ‘positive’ coping strategies and less likely to use alcohol or drugs for coping. Being younger, female, unmarried, of high SES, and a nonsmoker were associated with higher likelihoods of using exercise as a coping strategy. High levels of leisure-time physical activity were associated with increased, and heavy physical activity at work with decreased, odds of reporting using exercise for stress coping.


While reported use of exercise for stress coping is common in the general population, it is less so than several other behaviors. Encouraging exercise, particularly in groups identified as being less likely to use exercise for stress coping, could potentially reduce overall stress levels and improve general health and well-being.

Cairney is with the Dept of Family Medicine, Psychiatry, and Behavioural Neurosciences, and the Dept of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Kwan is with the Dept of Family Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Veldhuizen is with the the Social and Epidemiological Research Dept, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Faulkner is with the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.