Effectiveness of an undergraduate core curricula physical activity and obesity course on students’ health behaviors.
Betts, Randi Weintraub
MetadataShow full item record
With more than half of college students falling short of government guidelines for exercise and nutrition (ACHA, 2009), effective interventions targeting young adults during this transitional time are critical. Research on intervention components delivered by online college coursework is essential for developing easily utilized, valuable nutrition and physical activity knowledge delivery to students. The purpose of this study was to measure the baseline entry level health behaviors among the undergraduate students enrolled in an online Texas core curriculum course and to analyze the nature of the relationships between learned health knowledge and post-course health behaviors. Students recruited from an introductory public health issues in physical activity and obesity course completed measures of physical activity, nutrition and self-efficacy at baseline and post course follow-up. Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura, 1991), the Transtheoretical Model of Health Behavior Change (Prochaska & Diclemente, 1983), and the Health Action Process Approach (Schwarzer, 1992) were used to represent the most commonly applied empirically supported conceptual frameworks to promote behavior change in nutrition and physical activity. Specifically, the study sought to answer the questions: (1) To what extent does completion of a lower level undergraduate course relating to issues in physical activity and obesity change college students’ health behaviors to reflect a healthy lifestyle? (2) Does being a kinesiology student, living on campus, or having a meal plan affect the magnitude of change in health behaviors? (3) Does self-reported BMI affect the magnitude of change in health behaviors? (4) Does the level of self-efficacy affect the magnitude of change in physical activity? (5) Does the level of self-efficacy affect the magnitude of change in nutrition? (6) Does the academic performance in the course relate to better health behaviors? This study compared each participant’s pre-and post-questionnaire data to determine if there was a change in responses over the time period. Quantitative data was collected through three different questionnaires at the beginning and end of the semester. The health behavior theory questions were based on the participants’ stages of self-efficacy towards physical activity and improved nutrition and were analyzed through the Berlin Risk Appraisal and Health Motivation Study (BRAHMS) developed by Schwarzer and Renner (1999, α = .88); The food frequency questionnaire used was the Diet History Questionaire II (DHQ-II) created by the National Cancer Institute (2014, α = .86) and the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) was given to measure physical activity (2003, α = .80). Findings indicated that all dependent variables, physical activity, daily calorie intake, daily fat intake, vegetable consumption, and fruit consumption decreased from pre course to post course. The awareness of self-reported BMI did significantly predict a change in calories (F (4, 1260) = 3.00, p = .02) and fruit consumption (F (4, 1260) = 5.12, p < .001) among students. An inverse relationship of significant findings existed among calories and self-efficacy (F (4,1310) = 3.05, p = .02), demonstrating a positive health behavior change confirming the notion that record keeping and energy expenditure exercises do make students aware of calorie balance which then influence health behaviors. Regarding academic performance, total calories (F (4, 1310) = 3.19, p = .01) and fruit consumption (F (4, 1310) = 6.29, p < .001) were significantly associated causing positive health behavior change from self-awareness. These results support the value of teaching courses focused on physical activity and obesity to all college students, but suggest that health education alone does not lead to positive health behavior change. The potential benefits of a required instructional course provide merit for faculty members, educational policy makers and researchers in terms of implementation of strategies to promote healthy behaviors in college students, but may need to include actual engagement in physical activity and improvement in nutritional intake throughout students’ entire college career.