Research Study Abstract

Comparison Between Self-Perception and Accelerometer Measured Physical Activity Patterns in College Students

  • Added on July 6, 2012

Introduction Participation in physical activity on a regular basis is important for maintaining health, yet many people do not meet the levels recommended by scientific and health organizations. Physical activity behavior during the late adolescence/early college period in life is of particular importance as behaviors adopted during this time frame may carry over into adulthood. Previous research indicates that between 40-50% of college students are physically inactive, thus putting their health at risk (1,2,3).

Methods The purpose of this study, therefore, was to measure physical activity levels in college students, utilizing both objective, quantitative data (accelerometers) as well as more traditional self-report measures (International Physical Activity Questionnaire). In addition, we examined the relationship between these two different forms of measurement and common mental health constructs associated with physical activity levels such as depression, anxiety, stress, self-efficacy, self-esteem, and happiness. Forty nine male and female college aged subjects were recruited from a private, liberal arts university during both the fall and spring semesters. Students completed a series of mental health questionnaires and fitness tests prior to measurement of physical activity behavior, which was assessed over a two week period using two different forms of measurement: 1) IPAQ and 2) Accelerometer (Actigraph).

Results Subjects tended to overestimate their time spent in all categories of physical activity (light, moderate, and vigorous), and underestimate their time spent in sedentary behavior indicating a discrepancy in self-perception of actual physical activity behavior. There were significant positive correlations between average minutes per day spent in moderate /vigorous activity and happiness, self-efficacy, and self-esteem. In addition, higher physical activity levels were associated with lower levels of anxiety and stress. These results are consistent with previous research showing significant correlations between physical activity and aspects of mental health. This study remains one of the more extensive college population studies that matches objectively measured physical activity using accelerometers and mediators of mental health. One of the major findings is the discrepancy in perceived time spent in moderate and vigorous activity and the actual time spent in moderate and vigorous activity. The benefits of exercise are well known to this population but there remains a low level of participation. Further research will focus on interventional studies based on feedback to individuals in the college population with regards to what constitutes moderate and vigorous physical activity.

References 1. Buckworth, J, Nigg, C. (2004). J American College Health, 53 (1), 28-34. 2.Ferrara, C. (2009) J Exer Physiol Online, 12(1), 23-35. 3.Keating, X, Guan, J, Pinero, JC, Bridges. (2005). J American College Health, 54 (2), 116-125.