Physical activity information seeking among university students


Research suggests postsecondary students are a unique population experiencing significant declines in physical activity participation during the transition to university, with unique motives for participation. The purpose of this study was to: (i) identify which media tools (e.g., social media, paper media, peer networks) are preferred for physical activity information seeking, and (ii) examine outcome expectations for physical activity participation (e.g., weight loss, socialization, health benefits), among University of Alberta students. This analysis examined the relationships between physical activity information seeking, preferences for format, and student demographics. Survey results (N=1046) showed female students cited weight loss for appearance purposes as the main reason they look for information more so than male students, x2 (11) = 22.26, p = .02, while male students cited muscle gain for appearance as a top reason more than females, x2 (11) = 38.24, p < .001. Additionally, females were significantly more likely than males to cite accessing information to improve muscle tone as a secondary reason x2 (11) = 29.07, p = .02. Finally, female students reported using internet social media sources x2 (1) = 18.93, p < .001, and friends x2 (1) = 4.55, p = .03, more than males to find physical activity information. These findings suggest overall, university students may prefer learning about physical activity from websites and social media rather than health professionals. Future research may wish to consider how these preferences for information seeking and reasons why students seek information, affect participation in physical activity.