2009 - 2010 Undergraduate Research in Nutrition and Food Science
Background: Many studies have attempted to delve into the motivational factors directly affecting the physical activity levels of college students, a generally latent population of approximately 17 million in the U.S. at risk for adopting adverse health behaviors. Few studies, however, have analyzed the physical activity levels of college students and how they may be affected by a rather unique and highly anticipated institutionalized week known as Spring Break. Several established motivational factors for physical activity surround this occasion including those both extrinsic and intrinsic. Understanding the reasons individuals participate, or do not participate, in physical activity is important for health and fitness professionals as they encourage full participation in a balanced exercise program.
Methods: A sample of 135 undergraduate University of Kentucky students enrolled in an introductory level nutrition course were selected for this study. Surveys were distributed to subjects two weeks prior to, and two weeks following, Spring Break. Demographic information and data concerning the frequency, intensity, and types of physical activity were collected along with information revealing Spring Break plans in both surveys.
Results: A significant number of participants (53% of males and 60% of females) reported they had increased their physical activity levels prior to Spring Break (p = 0.049). There is a significant correlation between BMI and the number of days participants engaged in moderate-intensity physical activity prior to Spring Break (p < 0.01). Females experienced a significant feeling of regret for not having engaged in more physical activity (p = 0.018). Overall, females were more likely to increase their workout durations for extrinsic motivation factors such as wearing a bathing suit (p = 0.021) and holding destination plans to vacation as opposed to staying in Lexington (p = 0.049). Males were more likely than females to engage in sports activities than females (p < 0.01) and experienced no significant regret for not having engaged in more physical activity prior to Spring Break.
Conclusion: Spring Break presents many motivational factors, both extrinsic and intrinsic, for college students to engage in physical activity, and these factors affect the physical activity levels of students in a gender-dependent nature. Further research with a larger sample size of a more diverse background and consistent survey monitoring of physical activity levels prior to Spring Break is needed to accurately generalize results to the undergraduate student population.