a group of students in workput gear smiling and laughing

How to motivate sedentary university students to be physically active

As students transition from high school to university, their physical activity levels can decline. Exercise and physical activities offer a range of benefits and if students can sustain being physically active throughout university, they are more likely to keep up with the habit long term.

Although physical education organisations and national health agencies are concerned about the health implications of a lack of physical activity, less than 40 per cent of US colleges and universities require students to complete any physical activity education requirements to earn an undergraduate degree. Different universities have varying physical activity education (PAE) requirements — either a required PAE or an elective PAE. Researchers from Oregon State University wanted to investigate if there was a difference in the effectiveness of these two PAE arrangements and what impact it had on students’ physical activity motivation, competence and weekly exercise metabolic equivalent units (METs).

The study showed that although unmotivated students were not happy about the requirement of physical activity, once some of them started the program they became more motivated to continue their physical activity.

For this study, 953 university students were recruited from two universities with different PAE policies one week before the start of autumn term in 2015. The students completed online surveys indicating their motivation to participate in physical activity classes; their competence in the activity and their weekly exercise METs — their physical activity levels.

The results showed that students who were required to take physical activity classes were less motivated to be active. This suggests that a required physical activity program draws students who might not engage in physical activity on their own. The study also showed that although unmotivated students were not happy about the requirement, once some of them started the program they became more motivated to continue their physical activity. Elective PAE policies, in contrast, attract those who are already motivated to be physically active.

Physical activity policy changes may be required to encourage sedentary students to be physically active. A required PAE policy is important to attract and draw unmotivated students to develop a life-long exercise habit.

Source: Journal of American College Health

Meena Azzollini

Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!

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