Effects of Classroom and Virtual "Lifetime Fitness for Health" Instruction on College Students' Exercise Behavior

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study examined the effectiveness of a theoretically-based, Lifetime Fitness for Health (LFH) course on college students' weekly leisure-time exercise behavior and their use of behavior change strategies and techniques derived from the transtheoretical model (TTM). One hundred fifty-one students were recruited into the study (60.3% female, 81.5% Caucasian, M age = 21.3 yr.) with post-intervention data available for 109 (72.2%) participants. The intervention consisted of nine 80-minute lessons developed using TTM concepts and strategies and offered either in a classroom or web-based format. Control participants were recruited from non-LFH courses. Participants' weekly leisure-time exercise behavior, along with the behavioral and cognitive processes of change, decisional balance, and self-efficacy were collected before and after the 10-week intervention. Compared to controls, classroom participants experienced a 133% increase in their exercise behavior, and a 52% increase compared to the web-based participants. Web-Based participants experienced a 53% increase in their exercise behavior compared to control participants. Web-Based participants also made the largest gains in self-efficacy, decisional balance, and the behavioral processes of change. The efficacy of the LFH course, regardless of delivery format, was generally supported..

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Offering courses aimed at promoting, encouraging, and supporting college students' exercise behavior has been an aim of physical education departments since the 1800s (Sargeant, 1900). Historically, such coursework was almost exclusively activity- and skill-based, which made it particularly appealing to students who were already active while those who were not physically active generally avoided such courses (Scantling, Strand, Lackey, & McAleese, 1995). Over time, alternative courses and course formats began to evolve, including conceptually based Lifetime Fitness for Health (LFH) courses (LeMasurier & Corbin, 2002). Such courses were designed to promote wellness-related behaviors among college students, including exercise participation. These courses have increased in popularity over the past 30 years in the United States and are now included by some colleges and universities as part of the students' graduation requirement (Hensley, 2000). One of the Healthy People 2010 objectives is to increase the proportion of colleges and universities that offer such courses to their students (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). Furthermore, in an attempt to reach more students, some colleges and universities have begun offering virtual (i.e., distance education, on-line, or web-based) versions of their LFH courses (Suminski, Petosa, & Waggle, 2003). But, how effective are such courses? And, does delivery format influence the efficacy of such courses?

This study examined the effectiveness of a theoretically-based LFH course on college students' weekly leisure-time exercise behavior and their use of behavior change strategies and techniques. This is a follow-up to an earlier report that found the LFH course had little positive influence on the students' outside of class exercise behavior (Cardinal, Jacques, & Levy, 2002). Partially as a result of that report the course was revised, including building it around the transtheoretical model of behavior change (Prochaska & Velicer, 1997).

The transtheoretical model is a behavior change theory comprised of four main dimensions (Prochaska & Velicer, 1997): (a) decisional balance, (b) processes of change, (c) self-efficacy, and (d) stages of change. Conceptually, decisional balance suggests that a person will not adopt or maintain a regular exercise program unless her/his pros exceed her/his cons. The processes of change are the activities, events, and strategies that help people successfully change their behavior. A person's situation specific self-confidence in the face of barriers constitutes self-efficacy. …