Title page for ETD etd-08202000-14250000

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Stimpson, Tara Spruce
Author's Email Address tstimpso@vt.edu
URN etd-08202000-14250000
Degree Master of Science
Department Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Cox, Ruby H. Committee Chair
Jones, Debra S. Committee Member
Lambur, Michael T. Committee Member
Poole, Kathleen P. Committee Member
  • Decisional Balance
  • Family and Consumer Sciences
  • Stages of change
  • Physical Activity
  • Exercise
  • Self-Efficacy
Date of Defense 2000-08-07
Availability unrestricted
Extensive research has clearly revealed that people of all ages can enhance their health by simply incorporating moderate levels of physical activity into their daily routine. Physical activity significantly reduces the risk of morbidity and mortality from coronary heart disease while providing protective benefits from hypertension, diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis, and colon cancer. Physical activity can lead to positive psychological improvements by decreasing levels of anxiety and depression, and enhancing self-esteem. However, despite the tremendous physical and mental health benefits, 60% of American adults do not regularly engage in physical activity and 25% are completely inactive. Moreover, only 34 % of Virginians engage in regular physical activity. Immense progress has been made in terms of understanding physical activity behavior. Many techniques based on theoretical models have been developed for intervening with physical activity behaviors and designing of programs. The Transtheoretical model is considered one of the most promising approaches for enhancing physical activity behavior. This model integrates current behavioral status with a person's intention to change his/her behavior and suggests that individuals attempting to adopt a health behavior progress through five stages of change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. The concepts of self-efficacy (degree of confidence) and decisional balance (perceived benefits and barriers) are often used in conjunction with the stages of change for physical activity interventions to help individuals progress through the five stages of change.

A survey was conducted among 243 Family and Consumer Sciences educators and clientele in Virginia's Cooperative Extension program. Attitudes, preferences, stages of change, perceived incentives and barriers, along with desired education channels and activities were analyzed to provide a basis for development of effective Extension publications and programs aimed to increase and improve levels of physical activity.

Results from this study indicate that almost half of the respondents are not regularly engaging in physical activity and 31% are not engaging in any activity. Data revealed significant relationships between the stages of exercise change with respondents' levels of confidence (p<.0001) and with decisional balance scores (p<.0001). Participants who lead sedentary lifestyles or participate occasionally in physical activity (precontemplation contemplation, and preparation stages) viewed the barriers of physical activity to surpass the benefits. Consequently, these participants had low confidence in their ability to participate in physical activity. On the other hand, participants who exercised on a regular basis (action and maintenance stages) perceive the benefits for physical activity to outweigh the barriers. Furthermore, these participants had high confidence in their ability to exercise in challenging situations. Results from this study also suggest that stage of exercise change may be related to an individual's educational level.

Regardless of age and gender, educational channels in which respondents selected to receive physical activity information were brochures and newsletters. In addition, activities in which respondents were most frequently engaging were walking and yard work. The activity that subjects selected as a means to increase physical activity levels was also walking.

The results from this study can help Extension agents and specialists develop appealing physical activity educational materials and programs that meet the needs of FCS clients. These programs may help FCS clients incorporate regular physical activity in their daily lives, moving closer to achieving the State's objective for increasing physical activity among Virginia adults and, thus, leading to improved quality of life.

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