Physical Activity Challenges

Students take part in weekly physical activity assessments to better understand how to implement interventions to improve health through exercise.

Goals: Students will...

  • Understand how their, their activity levels (as well as those of their family and community) compare to recommended levels of physical exercise
  • Experience first-hand the challenges of changing physical activity behavior
  • Gain knowledge of an arsenal of validated tools that they are able to bring to their families, clients, or patients for real life implementation

Class: PSYC1036: The Science of Physical Activity in Health and Well Being

Introduction/Background: In the face of increased sedentary behavior and associated diseases among Americans,  students in this class learn about exercise as medicine. Each week, students engage in physical activity assessment themselves in order to teach students about the challenges of behavior change and give them a benchmark for what healthy levels of physical activity look like.  

Procedure:

There was an online module with instructions and both instructors and teaching assistants help to facilitate.

  • Each week, a particular aspect of physical activity assessment was presented in class. Examples include: Readiness to begin physical activity, Current Physical Activity Status (minutes), Current Physical Fitness Status (standards), etc. Students were given a real life assessment tool to complete within a week on themselves, a family member, friend, or member of their community.
  • Students began physical activity challenges by assessing their own physical and emotional readiness to begin exercise.
  • By utilizing a PAR-Q and Stages of Change assessment, students were able to better understand their own ability (both physically and mentally) to begin a physical activity regimen and truly appreciate the barriers to beginning.
  • They then honestly assessed the amount of physical activity they currently participated in, both according to total number of minutes in participation as well as specific physical fitness measures (pushups, situps, step test).
  • In addition to testing themselves, students were also given assignments to test people around them - specifically older people (e.g. parents/grandparents/neighbors) and children. In this way, they could understand how physical activity changes throughout the lifetime and understand the true physical fitness of their families and communities around them.
  • Lastly, students were asked to utilize a self-monitoring tool to understand their daily patterns and attempt to increase (or maintain) their current physical activity.
  • There was a weekly discussion of each assignment in section. As well, students wrote final one page wrap-up paper of the conclusions they drew from the activity that they shared online with their fellow students.
  • As the activity was part of a distance module, the activity was assessed utilizing a rubric that addressed: timeliness, cogent and thoughtful answers, and correct citation.

Materials:

Each week, students were provided with a different validated tool. These tools ranged from a Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q), Physical Activity Questionnaire (PAQ-A), Physical Activity Risk Assessment (EIM), Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB), and online applications provided by industry (Walkadoo by MeYouHealth). Overall, there were 8 Physical Activity Challenges.

Comments:

  • Instructors should have a true understanding of the tools (how they are calculated, how they have been validated, how to score them) and also an empathetic approach to implementation. This process if often much harder than it appears on the surface and can bring about some very personal issues (physical and mental) with students.
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