Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Perception of Physical Activity Participation of Chinese Female Graduate Students: A Case Study

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Perception of Physical Activity Participation of Chinese Female Graduate Students: A Case Study

Article excerpt

Purpose: Chinese female international students (CFIS) have been identified as one of the least physically active groups in the United States. In an effort to better understand this situation, this study's purpose was to examine CFIS in American higher education in terms of the meaning they assigned to physical activity and facilitators and barriers they experienced with regard to physical activity participation. Method: Twenty CFIS from a university in the Northwest region of the United States were recruited and interviewed. All of the interviews were conducted in Mandarin Chinese and translated and transcribed into English. The 1-on-1 semistructured interviews lasted between 45 min and 60 min each. Data were analyzed by NVivo8. Results: In terms of meaning, physical activity provided the participants with a break from their academic work, allowed them some alone time, and taught them a process for accomplishing other things in their lives. Major facilitators included social influences, ample available resources, their changing perceptions of femininity, and the need to improve or maintain health. Barriers included a lack of time, low self-efficacy, limited social support, cultural barriers, and a lack of "how-to" information. Conclusions: Understanding the physical activity experiences of CFIS is an important step in the process of promoting their long-term health and well-being. It may behoove universities with growing Chinese international student populations to add more cross-cultural content into their curriculums and fitness programs, increase awareness of cultural differences on campus, and increase accessibility to information in an effort to remove physical activity participation barriers experienced by CFIS.

Keywords: exercise, health promotion, students, university

Chinese international college students are those who were born and grew up in China and who came to the United States for higher education traveling on an F1 student visa. Currently, there are about 157,000 Chinese students studying in the United States, which represents more than 21% of the total international student population in America (Institute of Intemational Education [IIE], 2011). Among students from different nationalities studying in American colleges and universities, Asian female students are the least physically active (Yoh, Yang, & Gordon, 2008). For example, female college students from North America, Europe, South America, and Africa were found to average more than 2 hr per week of physical activity, whereas those from Asia averaged only 1.3 hr per week (Yoh et al., 2008). The most recent physical activity guidelines suggest that at least 2.5 hr of moderate-intensity physical activity per week is necessary to obtain substantial health benefits (Haskell et al., 2007). Clearly there is much room for improvement, and exploring the physical activity attitudes, knowledge, and behavior of this group represents an area in urgent need of attention.

At present, little is known about the determinants of physical activity participation among Chinese female international students (CFIS) in the United States in particular. It is also unclear how their Chinese cultural background and recent exposure to American culture as college and university students influences their physical activity participation. With the long-term goal of designing programs to facilitate their physical activity participation, we first needed to understand the meaning of physical activity and exercise to CFIS, as physical activity may have different meanings to people from different cultures (e.g., exercise, health, movement, or recreation; Pearce, 2009). For example, Chinese women aged 50 to 70 years old in a Canadian study did not differentiate between physical activity and exercise, and many women in the study felt that they were one in the same (Fancott, 2001).

In addition, we need to understand how Chinese and American cultures influence individuals' physical activity behavior. …

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