Exercise Self-Efficacy and Perceived Wellness among College Students in a Basic Studies Course

Article excerpt

Introduction

With our technology-driven society overcome with sedentary behaviors, and its associated negative physical and emotional consequences (e.g., heart disease, depression), the need for effective health promotion strategies is undeniably substantiated. In particular, college students are a population to target since their physical inactivity levels have been reported as about 50%, (1) along with an increase in unhealthy behaviors such as binge drinking and smoking. (2) These harmful trends are of concern to educators, as this life stage characterized by transitioning to independence and adoption of decision-making skills, signifies a unique time in the development of long-term behaviors.

With a rising trend in both physical and emotional problems, and established national health goals to increase not only quantity, but quality of life, (3) university level basic health and fitness-based courses are expanding to include a more comprehensive, preventive, and multidimensional approach to its curriculum. Wellness, "a multidimensional state of being describing the existence of positive health in an individual as exemplified by quality of life and a sense of wellbeing," (4) represents the shift in focus from the treatment of illness and disease to the proactive process of maximizing potential by balancing positive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with quality of life. The concept of wellness is predicated upon the overlapping, integrative nature of its multiple dimensions that uniquely influence each other throughout life. These dimensions represent the whole person (i.e., mind, body, spirit) and, depending upon the model, include physical, social, intellectual, emotional, psychological, spiritual, occupational, and environmental. (5,6)

In order for health professionals and educators to help individuals maximize their potential, determining thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with higher levels of health and wellness is important. For example, physical activity behaviors are associated with beneficial physiological and psychological health effects (e.g., disease risk reduction, weight control, improved mood, etc.). (7) As a result, researchers have sought effective approaches to increasing physical activity across various populations, especially over the long-term. A prevalent cognitive-based approach is to facilitate beliefs, such as self-efficacy, that are associated with increased physical activity and other positive health behavior changes (e.g., smoking cessation) and wellness outcomes (e.g., enhanced quality of life). In fact, self-efficacy, which is the belief in one's capability to perform a behavior, has been the focus of an extensive number of investigations since its inception over thirty years ago. (8-10) In addition, self-efficacy has become an integral component of social cognitive theory (11) and the transtheoretical model, [12,13] both well-documented psychological theories prevalently used to further understand health behavior change, even among college populations. (14)

In order to determine wellness perceptions (which are considered valid indicators of future health15) associated specifically with beliefs about physical activity, exercise self-efficacy was measured. This domain-specific type of self-efficacy is the belief in one's capability to successfully perform incremental bouts of physical activity, (16) and has been previously studied among college students and other populations. (17-19) Exercise self-efficacy is a reliable predictor of physical activity behavior, (17,20) and has been described as a "critical variable for exercise behavior regardless of population." (14) The hypothesis that higher exercise self-efficacy beliefs would be associated with higher perceptions of overall wellness and among more than just the physical dimension, was based on previous research indicating an efficacy-affect relationship. (21)

The hypothesized associations between exercise self-efficacy and the physical dimension of wellness (physical wellness), the five other dimensions of wellness (i. …

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