Expanding the study of ecological barriers to physical activity on a college campus: a mixed methods approach
Overweight and obesity are arguably the most formidable health epidemics of our time. Although a smaller percentage of young adults experience obesity compared to any other adult age grouping, young adults who are not set up to prevent the onset of overweight and obesity are at risk of a lifelong health struggle. Fortunately, engagement in regular physical activity has been associated with the prevention of obesity. The 2008 physical activity guidelines recommend adults attain at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (or a combination of the two) every week; however, rising obesity rates suggest engaging in physical activity is becoming harder to do. College and university students are not exempt from the difficulties of incorporating physical activity into their routines. This study used mixed methods to conduct a comprehensive examination of perceived ecological barriers to physical activity undergraduate students experience. Results from a Midwestern university indicated most undergraduates meet the physical activity guidelines; however, students still indicated several ecological barriers to physical activity. Quantitative results indicated the top barriers, despite whether students met physical activity guidelines, are (1) 'the amount of coursework I have' and (2) 'how much time being physically active takes away from my responsibilities (e.g., schoolwork, employment, familial commitments, etc.).' Although these constructs presented themselves in the interviews, qualitative results indicated the top barriers are (1) Issues with the built environment, (2) Formality of physical activity, and (3) Socio-cultural influence. Stakeholders who are interested in the prevention of overweight and obesity during and after college can use these findings to develop interventions and to encourage universities to 'buy in' to the design of healthier campuses for their students. Future research should move toward more action-oriented research; specifically, evaluation of said interventions.
Thesis (Ph.D.)-- Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Psychology