Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Weight stability and influences upon eating and exercise behaviors among college students Public Deposited

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  • Students are entering college heavier than ever before and some are gaining weight faster than the general population. Weight studies have been conducted, but are limited in scope about how behavior related choices are made. This study was an effort to determine weight stability and to explore the influences of eating and physical activity habits, among undergraduate students attending Oregon State University (OSU) during the 2004-2005 school year. The study methodology included: Phase One, involving anthropometric and demographic data collection on students enrolled in a class entitled “Lifetime Fitness” (HHS 241) during fall quarter 2004 and Phase Two, exploring influences upon behavior via focus groups from a subset of Phase One participants. Phase One revealed that students gained weight (M=2.62 pounds, SD = 5.42 pounds) during the first eight weeks of fall term. Seventy percent of students had a normal weight BMI classification at the start of the term. By the tenth week, the percentage had dropped to 68% and the incidence of obesity and overweight rose from 25% to 28%. The Phase 2 focus groups discussions revealed that most college students could describe a healthy lifestyle, but may fail to practice such. Lack of time and money, as well as other priorities were all sighted as reasons for not practicing healthy behaviors. Those that were most successful in practicing healthy eating and exercise habits believed that success in one habit led to success in the other. Intrinsic motivation was most likely to lead to healthy behaviors. The strongest influences on food choice were time, money, and the perception of availability and quality of food. The most frequently discussed motivator for exercise was enjoyment. Discussion about eating healthfully seemed to reflect their perception that it was more challenging than being physically active. Friends and roommates were both positive and negative influences, and constitute the primary support system for college behavior choices. Life skills and discipline are needed to practice healthy lifestyle behaviors and only a few participants appeared to be equipped with these. Most participants made statements that suggest a lack the rational decision making skills and maturity needed to consistently adhere to a healthy lifestyle. Some participants struggled with devising strategies to manage their eating and exercise behaviors. This preliminary study revealed some outcomes that need further exploration. Students need a clearer and more accurate understanding of what makes a food healthy. Strategies to encourage intrinsic motivators for eating and exercise, providing peer reinforcement for exercise and finding strategies to build exercise into the busy schedule of a college student are areas needing further exploration.
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