Physical Activity and Student Health: A Canadian University Perspective

  • Author / Creator
    Aktary, Walie M.
  • In 2013, a research effort at the University of Alberta combined various health-related questionnaires to form the Student Life Activity Questionnaire (SLAQ) to evaluate student health behaviour, patterns, and associations. An area for inquiry became evident when the analysis of the physical activity data appeared problematic and potentially related to the questionnaire used in the study. An evaluation of the 2013 SLAQ data suggested that future iterations of the SLAQ might benefit from an alternative approach. Therefore, this thesis sought to construct a simple physical activity questionnaire where the average of the item total would provide a general indicator of physical activity behaviour with higher scores corresponding to more frequent self-reported activity participation. Items were scored on a frequency scale from 0: Never to 6: Very often. Characterizing activity behaviours by themes resulted in a set of 14 student-focused items. Themes included bodily movement, exercise, fitness, recreation/sports, and sitting. The set of items was included in the 2014 SLAQ, which was used to a) determine whether a simple scale could be identified through factor analysis, b) evaluate convergent validity by comparing the factor-extracted questionnaire with the Global Physical Activity Questionnaire (GPAQ), and c) explore the associations between the factor-extracted physical activity scale and scores derived from questionnaires on perceived stress, nutrition, sleep, and personal wellbeing. The invitation to participate in the SLAQ was sent to 4000 University of Alberta students in May 2014. Participation was voluntary and students were provided with a $10 credit on their university identification card if they chose to participate. The SLAQ had a 34% response rate (n = 1366) and the findings showed that a 9-item Physical Activity Questionnaire (PAQ) could be extracted from the set of 14 items. The internal consistency of the PAQ was high (α= 0.81) and the convergent validity of the PAQ to the GPAQ activity scores was encouraging as positive Pearson (r = 0.28) and Spearman (rs = 0.44) associations (p < 0.01) were observed between the PAQ and the GPAQ total activity scores. The strongest Pearson (r = 0.49) and Spearman (rs = 0.65) associations were observed between the PAQ and GPAQ recreational activity scores. However, a direct limitation of the PAQ is that it cannot be considered a purely behavioural indicator of physical activity. When the PAQ was used to examine the associations between physical activity and indicators of health, Pearson analysis showed that the PAQ correlated significantly (p < 0.01) with perceived stress (r = -0.23), positive nutritional behaviours (r = 0.39), personal wellbeing (r = 0.29), and sleep quality (r = 0.11). A similar pattern of associations was observed when the Spearman coefficients were calculated between the GPAQ total activity scores to positive nutritional behaviours, and personal wellbeing except for perceived stress and sleep quality, which did not show a significant association. Physical activity is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle and research describing the associations between physical activity and health can provide valuable insight for public health and health promotion. The important findings from this thesis include outlining steps for additional health indicator development through theme establishment and factor analysis and a depiction of the associations between physical activity and indicators of health in the Canadian university setting. As associations are open to bidirectional interpretations, future research could explore the nature of associations found in this thesis to further guide health promotion efforts focused on improving student health and wellness.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Centre for Health Promotion Studies
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Schopflocher, Don (School of Public Health)
    • Raine, Kim (School of Public Health)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Spence, John (Faculty of Physical Education and Research)
    • Wild, Cam (School of Public Health)