Behavior, Theory and Practice: Promoting Physical Activity among American College Students

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jeffrey John Milroy, Associate Director (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
David Wyrick

Abstract: Engaging in physical activity is a critical part of an individual's life and can be the precursor for well-being and a method of disease avoidance. Yet, many American college students fail to engage in adequate amounts of physical activity during their daily lives. To compound the issue, little has been published regarding physical activity promotion practices on American college campuses. The aims of this dissertation are twofold. The first aim of this dissertation will be to provide a review of literature that will (1) highlight various determinants of physical activity among American college students; (2) provide rationale for promoting physical activity during the college years; (3) present a review of student physical activity promotion programming on American college campuses; (4) summarize the results of the review and provide direction for future research and practice. The second aim of this dissertation will be to describe a qualitative investigation into physical activity promotion practices conducted on UNC system campuses and provide recommendations for future research and practice. "Pub Med," a collection of databases for articles from medical and health-related journals, was used to identify appropriate literature for the first aim of the dissertation. Search terms included: physical activity, promotion, college, college students, campus, intervention, programming, environment, and policy. Studies that included promotion programs for the general public were not included nor were any policies implemented by non-college affiliated organizations. This review of literature uncovered 14 published articles from 1999 to 2008 related to physical activity promotion on American college campuses. Results of the literature review suggest that of the studies attempting to promote physical activity among college students, most target intrapersonal factors and provide little evidence regarding the effects of institutional, community or policy factors on physical activity behaviors of college students. Furthermore, additional research is needed to assess the effects of scientifically established determinants of physical activity on college student behaviors. Finally, results of this review underscore the need for continued research that will provide a comprehensive understanding of how physical activity promotion on a college campus is currently accomplished. To accomplish the second aim of this dissertation, participants were recruited from North Carolina's multi-campus university system. Nonprobabilistic purposive sampling followed by snowball sampling was conducted to identify a total of 22 semi-structured interview participants across 15 state universities located in North Carolina. Interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim into a word document and subsequently uploaded into NVivo 8 qualitative software for analyses. The qualitative investigation into student physical activity promotion on University of North Carolina multi-campus system campuses lead to the uncovering of several key findings. First, participant responses suggest that there is currently an unspecified definition of physical activity promotion. Second, it was uncovered that most efforts to promote physical activity to students do not target scientifically established determinants of physical activity outside of intrapersonal level determinants. In addition, descriptions of current physical activity promotion practices provided by participants made evident the limited use of a social ecological approach to promote physical activity among college students. Ultimately, these findings lead to the development of several recommendations for both research and practice including the establishment of a standard definition of physical activity promotion for university practitioners as well as continued research regarding the effects of targeting social ecological factors on physical activity behaviors of students.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2010
College student, Health promotion, Literature review, Physical activity promotion, Qualitative, University student

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