Physical Activity & Health Laboratory

“The Physical Activity & Health Laboratory focuses on identifying behavioral and psychosocial mechanisms of promoting and maintaining physically active and healthy eating habits in school-aged children. Our lab aims at developing innovative and comprehensive school-based physical activity interventions for promoting daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, improving physical fitness, motor skill competency, and intrinsic motivation for physical activity, developing healthy eating, and maintaining healthy weight in school-aged children. We also examine the modifying effects of gender, skill level, weight status, and learning ability on intervention effectiveness across physical activity and healthy eating related-outcome variables.”
Dr. Weiyun Chen, Director and Associate Professor of Applied Exercise Science

Above: Dr. Chen (head of table, in aqua) and members of the Physical Activity & Health Laboratory
Below: Dr. Chen assists a student in her lab.

Prof. Chen with student


OBL 3170
1402 Washington Hts.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2013
(734) 936-7312
(734) 647-2808



Effects of Team Sports Participation on Sleep Quality and Psychological Well-Being Among College Students


Mental health is a highly prevalent issue on college campuses, however, issues pertaining to mental health is often overlooked as society places more pressure on academic success. The common issue of lack of sleep and decline in psychological well-being in college students can lead to detrimental effects on students’ overall health. Recently, there has been a growing body of research examining the effects of physical activity on psychological well-being and many have shown that increased physical activity can have a positive impact on mental health. 


This research aims to assess the effectiveness of team sports participation in improving psychological well-being and sleep quality among college students in comparison to participation in strength and conditioning activities.


Contradictory to the initial hypothesis of the group participating in team sports activities having higher levels of psychological well-being as well as experiencing a better quality of sleep in comparison to the group participating in strength and conditioning classes, it was found that there was no significant difference among the levels of psychological well-being and experiences in sleep quality between the two groups. 

UROP 2019 poster authors:
Yumi Kim, Emily Cousino, Dylan Kong, Dr. Weiyun Chen Ph.D.

PDF of poster:

Effect of Strength and Conditioning Exercise on Depression and Sleep Quality


A lack of regular physical activity and rising levels of psychological disorders including depression and poor sleep quality are major concerns affecting college students.


This research assessed the effectiveness of strength and conditioning exercise at reducing levels of depression and improving sleep quality.


  • Students took the post-intervention survey shortly before exam season, and the stress associated with exams can induce feelings of despair and depression
  • The comparison group was individual sports, which is a different form of exercise. A control group might have been students without exercise
  • Depression level decreased
  • Time to fall asleep decreased and sleep duration increased
  • These findings encourage strength and conditioning exercise for people with high levels of depression and poor sleep duration.

UROP 2019 poster authors:

Logan Kroczaleski, Vincent Dong, Lingchen Kong, Dr. Weiyun Chen

PDF of poster:

Effects of Team Sports on Anxiety, Depression, Perceived Stress and Sleep Quality in College Students


  • Mental health is a global issue, with one in four people affected by a mental health disorder in their lifetime.
  • College students are particularly vulnerable to mental health problems and have a challenging time finding coping strategies.
  • Previous literature shows that exercise may provide a way to effectively reduce mental health issues.
  • It was hypothesized that participation in team sports would significantly lower levels of depression, anxiety, perceived stress, and poor sleep quality in contrast with the comparison group.


  • On average, both groups had total scores that indicated minimal anxiety at pre-test and post-test.
  • Both groups had pre-existing moderate stress and stayed within this range over time.
  • Academic pressure is a likely explanation for the slight increase in both stress and anxiety throughout the semester.
  • Mild to moderate amounts of stress and anxiety can help elevate academic performance, but too much is harmful to our mental health.
  • Both groups had a total score indicating depression at pre-test. At post-test, the team sports group score did not indicate depression, while the aerobic dance score did.
  • Team sports offer heightened emphasis on group goals and a sense of connection, providing an overall improved mood and encouraging strategies for managing long-term mental health.
  • Both groups went from a score of poor sleep quality at pre-test to a score of good sleep quality at post-test.

UROP 2019 poster authors:
Sara Johnston, Christine Roskowski, Dylan Kong, Weiyun Chen, Ph.D

PDF of poster:​

Mind-Body Exercise Impact on Depression, Anxiety, and Quality of Sleep in College Students (UROP)


  • Depression, anxiety, and quality of sleep has become a prevalent issue in college students, making it difficult for students to go through their daily lives and accomplish what they need to be successful
  • Quality of sleep is oftentimes what suffers the most, little sleep has been shown to negatively affect mental health over a long period of time (Vera, et al. 2009)
  • Yoga has shown to decrease depressive symptoms in depressed adults (Manicoret al. 2016)

Research Purpose:

The aim of this study was to determine the effects of mind-body exercises (yoga) on students at a large public university in China, monitoring their yoga activity impact on their depression, anxiety, and sleep quality in comparison to a control, Latin Dance group of students.


  • ANXIETY – The interventions of both Yoga and Latin Dance did not have significant impact on anxiety score post-intervention, and did not have significantly difference in their impact
  • SLEEP QUALITY - Both interventions had a positive impact on sleep quality, but there was no significant difference in how the interventions impacted PSQI scores.
  • DEPRESSION – Both interventions, Yoga and Latin Dance, had a significant positive impact on depression scores in college students. There was no significant difference in how the interventions impacted depression scores.

UROP 2019 poster authors:

Gasia Oknayan1, Anna Maxwell1, Dylan Kong1 & Dr. Weiyun Chen2
1: University of Michigan, 2: Associate Professor, University of Michigan School of Kinesiology 

PDF of poster:

Physical Activity and Brain Cognition

This study consists of a series of studies as follows:
a.    Our research team conducted four systematic reviews of physical activity interventions impact students’ BMI, academic achievement, academic behaviors, executive functions.
b.    Our research team is examining how brain-coordinated exercise in classroom and technology-enhanced physical activities impact students’ working memories, attention/concentration, time-on-task behaviors, and critical thinking skills.
c.    Our research team will examine how types of physical activity in classroom impact students’ learning-related executive functions and brain cognitions.
This series of studies funded by Hartwig Endowment Fund: $10,000

Impact of Physical Activity Participation on Physical Health and Psychological Well Being Among Chinese College Students

This study aimed to investigate levels of physical activity participation influenced the quality of sleep, physical health, and psychological wellbeing among students in Fudan University. 2,000+ college students with varying years of college, ranging from first-year to senior will be recruited from Fudan University to voluntarily participate in this 2-year study. Data collection will take place in 2015 and 2016. At each time point, participants will complete three outcome measures including: Objectively-measured physical activity and sleep. Health Behavior Survey, and Personal Attributes Questionnaire. Data will be analyzed by means of descriptive statistics, multiple linear regression, and MANOVA methods.

This study funded by Joint Research Fund awarded by the Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan: $20,000

Effectiveness of Technology-Integrated Physical Activity Intervention on Children

The objective of this 3-year randomized controlled study is to examine the effectiveness of web-based classroom physical activity breaks and technology-enhanced QPE on improving daily MVPA, physical fitness (i.e., cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength/endurance, and BMI), motor skill development, and intrinsic motivation for PA in children across groups at-risk for physical inactivity. The study will include three study arms, which will be randomly assigned at the school-level (12 schools):

1) web-based activity breaks and technology-enhanced QPE;

2) web-based activity breaks and QPE; and

3) QPE alone.

Our specific aim #1 will examine effectiveness of 1) web-based activity breaks and technology-enhanced QPE and 2) web-based activity breaks and QPE in increasing daily MVPA, physical fitness, motor skill competency, and intrinsic motivation for PA in children compared to QPE alone (control group). Our specific aim #2 will examine the modifying effects of gender, skill level, weight status, and learning ability on the effectiveness of the interventions on daily MVPA, physical fitness, motor skill competency, and intrinsic motivation for PA. Four outcome measures will be conducted at three time points: baseline, immediate post-intervention, and 12-months post-intervention. The positive impact of this project is to demonstrate innovative intervention strategies for preventing and managing overweight and obesity among school-aged children.

NIH funding is pending

The Impact of Physical Activity on Positive Psychology

Olivia Bachteal_UROP 2016



Background: In the past, the relationships between physical activity, health, and wellbeing of college students have not be fully determined. In order to effectively address the issue of collegiate student health, more research needs to be conducted to determine the impacts of physical activity on student wellbeing. 


  • Data Sources: Literature search included the compilation of 175+ articles from scholarly databases. Each student was assigned a subtopic with key words to include when searching for relevant articles. My specific study included words such as “physical activity” and “exercise,” and “college students,” “positive psychology,” sleep,” and “hope”. In addition to the literature review, a sample of 100 college students at a Chinese University took part in a study that had them wear ActiGraph Monitors that recorded PA levels. They also took part in several surveys that measured relative hope levels, curiosity and exploration, gratitude, life satisfaction, and subjective happiness. 
  • Data Analysis: Of the collected articles from the select databases, several were reviewed and outlined in summary notes. A summary note template was used in analyzing the sources, with five categories: study citation, research purpose, participants, study design, outcome measures, and key results. Each aspect of the data collected from the ActiGraph monitors was analyzed with SPSS for significant relationships or correlations. The surveys were recorded based on a five-point and seven-point reading scale. Each survey on personal attributes yielded information on the relationships between each personal quality and its relationship with MVPA. 

Results: Based on preliminary summary note findings, a positive correlation should be observed between physical activity and positive personal quality. Despite this initial hypothesis, the data from the Chinese University students yielded an insignificant relationship between MVPA and personal attributes. This data is surprising, further research needs to be conducted in order to accurately define the relationship between positive personal qualities and various intensities of physical activity.  
Conclusion: The inconclusive evidence on the relationships between physical activity and personal quality demonstrate a significant need for further research. In addition to the data, a relationship between the combination of adequate MVPA and attributes lead to a higher sleep efficiency, while this was one of the only significant relationships found in this study, it is vital that research be conducted in order to precisely determine the relation between each healthy lifestyle aspect.

UROP student: Olivia Bachteal

Impact of Brain Cognition and Technology-Enhanced Physical Activity Intervention

Avneet Chadha_UROP 2016

Research Purpose:

  • To determine whether increased levels of physical activity, as reflected on the Fitbit, increased cognitive performance among 5th grade students at local elementary schools.
  • To examine how different levels of physical activity improved student’s health.


  • Physical activity did not have a dramatic influence on cognitive performance due to PAEBs leading students to improving d2 tests independent of physical activity.
  • Increased amount of very active minutes as measured by the Fitbit resulted in an increase likelihood of students being part of the Health Related Fitness Zone.

UROP student: Avneet Chadha

Physical Activity and its Effects on Physical Health and Mental Health of College Students


Background: There is a lot of previous research on physical activity and the benefits that come with it. Most of the research conducted yields some sort of positive results from physical activity. However, there is a scarce amount of research done on physical activity’s effect on physical and mental health in college students.
Purpose: This study aimed to determine if there was a positive correlation between physical activity and health of college students, specifically mental health and physical health.

Participants and Setting:

  • 100 Chinese college students at Fudan University voluntarily participated in this study.

Data Collection

Participants completed the following outcome measures:

  • Health Behavior Survey (Chinese Version): Survey about health behaviors. Focused on the physical and mental health sections of the survey. Each sub-scale contains 5-6 items anchored with 5-point rating scales. 
  • Objectively measured physical activity and sleep: The 100 participants wore the ActiGraph Activity Monitor (wBT3x-BT) for 7 consecutive days from the first day at 8:00 AM and the 8th day at 8:00 AM (Monday to Monday, Tuesday to Tuesday, etc.)

Results: There was a statistical significance between the difference in Daily Average Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA) Minutes between quartiles, but not between Daily Average MVPA Minutes and physical and mental health

Conclusion: There is no relationship between MVPA and physical and mental health.

UROP student: Scott Feldpausch Jr.

The Impact of Physical Activity on Sleep Quality

Cassidy Haase_UROP 2016


Background: Physical activity participation is known to be beneficial to both objective and subjective sleep. However, the benefits may depend upon the amount of time engaged in physical activity. Purpose: This study aimed to investigate the impact of different durations of physical activity (PA) participation on the quality of sleep among 100 college students. It was hypothesized that greater levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) would increase sleep efficiency and total sleep time (TST).

Methods: 100 students who were recruited from Fudan University voluntarily participated in the study. Students’ PA and sleep data were objectively collected through the ActiGraph Activity Monitor (wBT3x-BT) which each participant wore for 7 consecutive days. To investigate the relationships between levels of physical activity participation and quality of sleep, data were analyzed by means of descriptive statistics, an independent t-test, bivariate correlation, and multiple R-squared linear regression.

Results: The independent t-test indicated that Group 1 (n = 59) (x̅ = 34.496 min. MVPA per day) exhibited significantly higher levels of sleep efficiency and total sleep time than did Group 2 (n = 41) (x̅ = 70.826 min. MVPA per day) (t = 4.064, p < .01; t = 4.074, p < .01). Furthermore, the results of the multiple linear regression indicated that sleep efficiency and total sleep time were significantly associated with daily MVPA (F = 23.104, p < .01)

Conclusion: The results rejected our hypothesis. 60 minutes or more of MVPA per day resulted in lower sleep efficiency and less total sleep time. Therefore, moderate levels (<60 min. MVPA per day) should be carried out for optimal sleep quality.

UROP student: Cassidy Haase

Impact of Motivation and Technology-Enhanced Physical Activity Intervention

Sophie Wittenberg_UROP 2016


The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of a technology-enhanced physical activity intervention on self-determined motivation, attention and concentration, and physical fitness in school-aged children. My specific research focus is on whether Self-Determination Theory targeted motivational interventions have a positive correlation with physical fitness level. In the initial literature search, 376 articles were collected using variations of the keywords Self-Determination Theory, cognitive functioning, and physical activity. Additionally, the search was restricted by ages 6-18 and peer-reviewed articles published after the year 2005. These articles were collected from the databases ERIC, psychINFO, Pubmed, Sports Discus, and CIHAHL. Additionally, specific articles were collected from a few key authors who conducted Self Determination Theory studies with school-aged children. Specifically, these authors were Ntoumanis and Standage. Once collected, the articles were narrowed down to 10 through the deletion by duplicates, title, abstract, and then the full length article. The 56 participating students completed the Physical Activity and Attitude Questionnaire, which measures motivation as it relates to physical activity as a pre and post assessment. Additionally, students took a fitness test including a 1-mile run, taken from FITNESSGRAM (2015), which determined the students’ health related fitness zone (HRFZ). These participants’ mile times were placed into one of three categories (below average, average, and above average) depending on their performance on the assessment. Both the survey and the fitness test were performed at the beginning of the study and at the end of the 4-week study. The results from this study show that there is a significant positive relationship between intrinsic motivation and the students HRFZ as well as between autonomy and the students HRFZ. 


This study investigated the relationship between students’ motivation in PE class and their level of physical fitness. 

UROP student: Sophie Wittenberg

The Effects of Using an Active Workstation on Executive Function

The Immediate Impact of Physical Activity on Attention and Concentration in Fourth Grade Elementary Students

Impact of Physically Active Recess Period on Attention-Concentration in 5th Grade Students

Acute Impact of Physically Active Recess on Attention and Concentration on 3rd grade Students