Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Despite the health benefits associated with active lifestyles, a majority of adults do not engage in sufficient levels of physical activity (PA). Few individual-focused interventions have produced sustained changes in PA behavior. Therefore, public health officials are promoting the use of ecological approaches to examine the multidimensional factors that influence choices about PA and other health behaviors. National statistics are mirrored in college populations, with one-half of students in the US failing to meet current PA recommendations and one-third classified as either overweight or obese. In light of this, increasing PA and obesity prevention have been identified as the top two priorities in the national Healthy Campus 2010 initiative. Research suggests that reductions in PA and increases in weight that occur during the freshman year of college and are likely to continue into adulthood are related to social and physical environmental factors. The assessment of physical environmental influences, however, on PA in college populations has been narrow in scope and inherent limitations associated with self-reported height and weight, and BMI as a predictor of obesity in youth exist. The purpose of this study was to implement an ecological model to explore factors that influence PA behaviors of college students, and to examine how those factors related to risk for overweight and obesity. Using a cross-sectional design, 308 university freshmen were surveyed regarding cognitive beliefs about PA, perceptions of neighborhood features, and participation in specific types of PA. Body composition assessments were conducted on 61 volunteers from that sample to examine the reliability and validity of self-reported BMI as an indicator of weight risk. Results suggest that safe community neighborhoods and better land use mix on campus encouraged participation in PA, but were not as predictive of PA behavior as demographic and cognitive factors. Gender and race specific biases in reported height and weight were evident. Only moderate correlations existed between measured BMI and percent body fat, compromising the ability to establish associations between the physical environment, physical activity and risk for obesity. Percentage of body fat may be more useful to establish relationships with environmental influences in this population.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Melinda Solmon



Included in

Kinesiology Commons