A secondary analysis of the impact of university students’ primary exercise location on their perception of environmental factors within the gym


University is a transitionary stage of life whereby many students decrease their activity level despite reduced barriers of an on-campus fitness facility. Previous research has demonstrated that environmental factors within the gym either positively or negatively influence exercise facility use, with individuals of varying self-efficacy (SE) levels differing in their perception of environmental factors. The purpose of this study was to compare university students who exercise in different locations in their perceptions of environmental factors within the gym environment, controlling for task SE. University students (n = 667) responded to an online cross-sectional survey regarding their choice of exercise location (68% established facility; 19% home; 13% no exercise), level of task SE (1 = low, 10 = high), and perception of 33 physical and social environmental factors (e.g., over crowdedness, presence of muscular individuals; -2 = completely negative influence, 2 = completely positive influence). From the one-way ANCOVAs, 15 significant differences were observed between individual’s choice of location (η;2 = .01-.04), after controlling for task SE, which was a significant covariate for 28 environmental factors (η;2 = .00-.08). In general, those who exercised at an established gym location reported the most positive perceptions of environmental factors (e.g., presence of knowledgeable individuals), with the greatest differences observed between established locations and home, and fewest between home and no exercise. These findings demonstrate perceptions of environmental factors vary by choice of exercise location, which may be valuable when determining factors that contribute to if and where students choose to exercise.