College Students Opinions on Health and Fitness

College Students Opinions on Health and Fitness: Literature Review

This chapter presents the literature review section of the thesis, providing the ground for the studies implementation. Previous qualitative research on health and fitness for the college age group has been overwhelming in the last few decades. Nonetheless, the broad literature has also left a critically essential and urgent gap in knowledge, particularly in regards to the opinion that college students have of health and fitness. Further, the present study sought to compare the interview responses generated from the sample of 12-15 students on campus, to the findings and conclusions generated by previous research studies. Focusing on peer-reviewed literature sources, particularly previous empirical research findings, the subsequent sections of this chapter following this introduction will provide a strategic analysis of the topic under investigation.

The review starts with the concept of being healthy among the college youth, focusing on the meaning of healthy lifestyles among college students, the importance of being healthy, and strategies to improve health for college students as already established by previous research. This is then followed by a critical discussion of the attitude and deliberate decisions for health and fitness among college students. Given that health and fitness is significantly determined by the environment and context, the chapter will also critically review the role of contemporary colleges and universities in promoting health and fitness among college students. The literature review chapter will then provide a detailed analysis of contemporary college student’s and physical education/activity, constituting an evaluation of variant health and fitness indicators established by previous research. Further, the chapter will also highlight the assorted benefits of health and fitness for college students, from numerous critical perspectives including stress and depression, wellness and quality of life, prevention of diseases and fatal conditions, academic performance as well as social, economic, and psychological benefits.

The Concept of Being Healthy among the College Youth

The Core Meaning of Healthy Lifestyles among College Students

The lifestyles of college students and their unhealthy outcomes has become an urgent global concern. Recent empirical findings have confirmed that based on the lifestyles, college students do not know of, ignore, or deliberately contravene any pro-health behaviors, predisposing an increasingly worrying lifestyle during and after their youthful age. Bulley et al. (2009) asserted that, while Health benefits accruing from physically active lifestyles has become a universally accepted part of healthy lifestyle globally, as recommended by the World Health Organization in 2004, the “personal meanings, values and feelings relating to physical activity and exercise participation in female undergraduates” in the US, still demands urgent intervention (p. 751). The female students demonstrate a lifestyle choice that is often anti rather than pro health while in college. This affirms that college students in the US and globally, either ignore or disregard the meaning of a healthy lifestyle as indicated by their eating behaviors, and physical activity versus sedentary preferences, particularly at a critical level among female students.

Irrespective the gender bias however, the general population has demonstrated total disregard of healthy lifestyles. Considering the “perspectives of health and fitness in college men and women,” Waldron and Dieser (2010) point out that “almost 30% of the population in the United States is sedentary and 70% are consuming too much fat in their diet” (p. 65). Research has therefore triggered the question on whether contemporary college students really understand the meaning of healthy lifestyles, in a manner that justifies their self-rated lifestyle behaviors/choices when predisposing a positive health impact in their lives. In a recent empirical study conducted by Schmidt (2012) in Swedish universities, the researcher affirmed that most positive and negative lifestyle behaviors are often a product of lifestyle choices made during the youth or the young adulthood age bracket. Being a college student, however makes an individual be in a “particularly vulnerable group,” where he or she adopts what Schmidt (2012) regards as “unhealthy lifestyle behavior” (p. 1). The cross-sectional study was strategically designed to identify and contextualize how socio-demographic factors often influence the lifestyle behaviors of Swedish university students from the “self-rated health” perspective, thus exploring “the predictors of self-rated health and lifestyle behaviors” (p. 1).

To conduct the study, Schmidt (2012) collected primary data from 152 conveniently sampled university students using open-ended questionnaires incorporating standard and validated socio-demographic instruments. Upon collection, the data was analyzed using regression, ANOVA and T-Test descriptive statistics, specifically focusing on how stress levels, physical activity, and consumption behaviors as the key lifestyle behaviors self-rated health was compared to such predicting socio-demographic factors as the first language, educational level of parents and gender (Schmidt, 2012). It thus emerged that, the male university students are often less stressed, more physically active, and with overall better health, better fitness level and higher mental health than their female peers. The female college students predictably scored lower because of having adopted unhealthy lifestyles such as eating behaviors.

Previous research had already generated findings that concur with Schmidt’s (2012) findings. Bulley et al. (2009) sampled 16 college students in the US for a personalized semi-structured face-to-face interview, to understand whether these students understand the meaning and need of healthy lifestyles. After a thematic analysis, Bulley et al. (2009) found that the female students regarded physical activities and exercises emotively, in a manner that the meaning of healthy lifestyles was abstract. To some students (fewer), physical activity was an aspect of their lifestyles they enjoyed, while to others (most), physical activity was “associated with feelings of guilt and inadequacy” (p. 751).

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