Accelerometer-Measured Versus Self-reported Physical Activity in College Students: Implications for Research and Practice
Journal of American College Health
Objective: To determine the level of moderate-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) assessed via self-report and accelerometer in the college population, and to examine intrapersonal and contextual variables associated with PA. Participants: Participants were 77 college students at a university in the northwest sampled between January 2011 and December 2011. Methods: Participants completed a validated self-report measure of PA and measures of athletic identity and benefits and barriers to exercise.
... rriers to exercise. Participants' PA levels were assessed for two weeks via accelerometry. Results: Participants' estimations of their time spent engaged in MVPA was significantly higher when measured via self-report vs. accelerometry. Stronger athletic identity, perceived social benefits and barriers, and time-effort barriers were related to PA levels. Conclusions: Estimation of college level PA may require interpretation of data from different measurement methods, as self-report and accelerometry generate different estimations of PA in college students who may be even less active than previously believed. An estimated 41% of the nation's 17-24 year old population is currently enrolled in college, and the undergraduate enrollment in postsecondary educational institutions is projected to rise through 2021. 1 The overall health of the college student population is a public health concern as the transition from late adolescence to adulthood is accompanied by a time of increased personal choice, and behaviors adopted during emerging adulthood may have life-long effects. 2 Specifically, physical activity (PA) behavior within this population is of importance given the myriad health benefits associated with a physically-active lifestyle and the reported low estimates of PA levels in the college student population. 3,4 Recent data from a national sample of college students surveyed in The American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment underscores this point, indicating that the majority of college students do not meet current PA guidelines. Only 19.5% of the population sampled was engaging in moderateintensity physical activity (MPA) for at least 30 minutes on 5-7 days in the past week, and only 29.3% was engaging in vigorous-intensity physical activity (VPA) for at least 20 minutes on 3-7 days in the past week. 5 Low PA levels in the college population are concerning for several reasons. First, sedentary college students miss the beneficial effects of PA on overall physical and mental health. 3, 6-8 Second, the typical college years are considered a critical period during which individuals strive to form a clear sense of identity, which helps direct their present and future behavior, 9,10 and sedentary college students may miss the opportunity to formulate a personal identity that includes PA. This is important because PA levels typically decline as students transition from high school to college, 11,12 decline further throughout college, 13,14 and continue to decline from age twenty-four throughout adulthood, 15 making the college years a key time to Downloaded by [University of Portland] at 11