- Chinese international students in American colleges and universities report low levels of physical activity involvement, which may limit them in terms of
realizing their full human potential (i.e., cognitively, physically, socially). The purpose of this dissertation was to investigate the psychosocial mechanisms as well as the sociocultural influences to understand physical activity behavior among Chinese international students in American higher education.
The first manuscript reviewed the background of physical activity participation among Chinese students. It also reviewed empirical findings related to the Youth Physical Activity Promotion (YPAP) model (Welk, 1999). The second manuscript tested a model of meeting physical activity recommendation (MPAR), using the YPAP model as the guiding framework in an effort to identify theoretical predictors of physical activity participation among Chinese international students. Results revealed that the predisposing, enabling, and reinforcing factors predicted MPAR among Chinese international students. Different from Welk's (1999) model, however, we found that the enabling and reinforcing factors influenced physical activity indirectly through the predisposing factors, able(i.e., Am I able?) and worth (i.e., Is it worth it?), instead of directly. The results clarify how the YPAP model might be used to understand the physical activity behavior of Chinese international students studying in American colleges and universities. The third manuscript qualitatively explored the physical activity experiences of Chinese female international graduate students in terms of meanings, facilitators, and barriers to participation. It revealed that physical activity provided the
participants with a break from their academic work, allowed them some alone time, gave them feelings of accomplishment, and taught them a process for accomplishing other things in their lives. Major facilitators included social influences, the availability of ample resources, their changing perceptions of femininity, and the need to improve or maintain their health. The most frequent barriers included a lack of time, self-efficacy, social support, "how to" information, and cultural barriers. This study adds to our understanding of the physical activity experiences of Chinese international graduate students, as well offers some direction to colleges and universities in the U.S. regarding how they might facilitate the physical activity behavior of Chinese international graduate students in the future. Based on the two empirical studies, colleges and universities ought to provide physical activity resources, as well as social resources, to increase the perceived competence, self-efficacy, positive attitude, and enjoyment of physical activity among Chinese international students. University curriculums and fitness training programs should include cross-cultural course content to increase awareness of the unique needs of international students, as well as to help them to remove barriers to their physical activity participation.