Cross-Cultural Comparison of American and Finnish College Students' Exercise Behavior Using Transtheoretical Model Constructs

Article excerpt

Although the benefits of exercise are well documented, an international problem of physical inactivity exists. More research, especially theory based, has been recommended. One promising approach for studying exercise behavior is that proposed in the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) of behavior change. This model, however; has received minimal cross-cultural attention and, relative to the current study, measurement instruments have only recently been translated into the Finnish language. The purpose of this study was to assess American and Finnish college students' exercise behaviors on the basis of TTM. Participants were American (n = 169) and Finnish (n = 168) college students who completed language-specific measures of exercise behavior; stage of change, processes of change, decisional balance self-efficacy, and temptation. The only cultural difference observed was that the American participants rated themselves higher on barrier self-efficacy relative to the Finnish participants. Regardless of nationality or gender, participants classified by their stage of change differed on all the core constructs assessed. These results generally support the utility of TTM for understanding American and Finnish college students' exercise behavior.

Key words: decisional balance, physical activity, processes of change, self-efficacy


Within the scholarly domain of kinesiology and physical education, Zeigler (2000) expressed an ongoing need for cross-cultural research aimed at fostering international understanding. This need has also been voiced by scholars in the subdiscipline of sport and exercise psychology (Duda & Hayashi, 1998). Specifically, Duda and Hayashi stated," ... comparative studies are paramount to the field's theoretical mad empirical growth" (p. 472). With a keen interest in making advances in this area, the purpose of this study was to compare American and Finnish college students' exercise behavior on the basis of the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) of behavior change.

Transtheoretical Model

TIM is a contemporary psychological framework composed of four main dimesions (Burbank & Riebe, 2002; Kosma, Cardinal, & Rintala, 2002): (a) stages of change, of which, depending on the behavior, five or six are hypothesized; (b) processes of change, of which five behavioral and five cognitive processes are hypothesized; (c) serf-efficacy; and (d) decisional balance. In a recent meta-analysis, Marshall and Biddle (2001) identified 80 published studies that have examined one or more of TTM's dimensions within the physical activity domain. Of these studies, however; only three examined all four main dimensions of the model simultaneously (Gorely & Gordon, 1995; Hellman, 1997; Nigg & Courneya, 1998). Specifically, Gorely and Cordon found 8 of the 13 core constructs from TTM accounted for 57% of the variance in a sample of older Australian adults' (M age = 56 years) stage of change classification. Hellman reported that 50% of the variance in a sample of cardiac rehabilitation patients' (M age = 73.5 year) stage of change for exercise adherence was accounted for by their perceived self-efficacy, benefits (surrogate measure of pros), interpersonal support (not a core construct in TTM), and barriers (surrogate measure of cons). The hypothesized processes of change contributed no unique variance in this study. Among a sample of adolescents (M age = 15 year), Nigg and Courneya (1998) found all of the hypothesized constructs from TTM to be significantly related to the participants' stage of change for exercise behavior. The largest variance in their series of univariate comparisons came from counterconditioning ([[omega].sup.2]) = .26), self-efficacy ([[omega].sup.2] = .24), and self-liberation ([[omega].sup.2] = .14). Both counterconditioning and serf-liberation are behavioral processes of change.

Beyond the four main dimensions and their associated constructs, a need for examining other variables and constructs relative to those proposed by TTM has been identified (Jordan, Nigg, Norman, Rossi, & Benisovich, 2002). …