Determinants of physical activity and sedentary behaviour in university students: a qualitative study using focus group discussions

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Abstract

Background
College or university is a critical period regarding unhealthy changes in energy related behaviours in students. The first objective of this explorative study was to identify determinants of physical activity and sedentary behaviour in Belgian university students. Secondly, we aimed to collect ideas and recommendations to increase physical activity and decrease sedentary behaviours in university students.

Methods
Using a semi-structured question guide, seven focus group discussions were conducted consisting of 17 male and 29 female university students from a variety of study disciplines, with a mean age of 20.7 ± 1.6 yrs. Using Nvivo9, an inductive thematic approach was used for data analysis.

Results
Students reported that both physical and sedentary activities were influenced by individual factors (e.g. perceived enjoyment, self-discipline, time and convenience), their social networks (e.g. (lack of) parental control, modelling, social support), physical environment (e.g. availability and accessibility, travel time/distance, prices), and macro environment (e.g. media and advertising). Furthermore, the relationships between determinants and university students’ physical activity and sedentary behaviour seemed to be moderated by university characteristics, such as residency, university lifestyle, exams and academic pressure. Recommendations for future physical activity interventions include improving information strategies regarding on-campus sports activities, cheaper and/or more flexible sports subscriptions and formulas, including ‘sports time’ into the curricula, and providing university bicycles around campus. Students also believed that increasing students’ physical activity might decrease their sedentary behaviour at the same time.

Conclusions
The recommendations and ideas discussed in this study may facilitate the development of effective and tailored (multilevel) intervention programs aiming to increase physical activity and decrease sedentary behaviours in university students.


Original languageEnglish
Article number201
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Public Health
Volume15
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords

  • Determinants Physical activity
  • Sedentary behaviour
  • Energy expenditure
  • University students Focus groups

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