Physical activity participation of female students: Prevalence and change during the first academic year

Catherine Bulley*, Marie Donaghy, Andrew Payne, Kate Woodman, Nanette Mutrie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives. This study aimed to explore the prevalence, and change over time, of participation in vigorous exercise and moderate lifestyle physical activity (PA) in a female student population in Scotland. Methods. A survey was carried out to assess Stages of Behaviour Change (SOBC) for exercise and moderate PA at the start of the first academic year (n=425, response rate: 67.6%). At the start of the second year a sample of the previously surveyed female students (n=16), stratified by SOBC, were interviewed to retrospectively explore change in their activity choices throughout the first academic year and summer vacation. Results. Greater participation in moderate lifestyle PA than in exercise was noted, with a high prevalence of inactivity: 50.6 per cent in the survey. Qualitative data suggested a decrease in participation during semester one. Interview responses indicated that students were affected by transitions, including the move into higher education and intermittent vacations. Although some adjusted to the changes over time, others experienced sporadic activity patterns in response to frequent changes in circumstances. A response bias towards mature students from health-related courses was noted throughout the study. Conclusions. The high prevalence of inactivity in this female student population raises concerns regarding their current and future health. Although higher education is thought to provide a useful forum for health promoting activities, the impact of regular transition periods must be addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-90
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Health Promotion and Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004


  • Activity
  • Exercise
  • Prevalence
  • Stages of Behaviour Change
  • Women


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