Date of Award

January 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Kinesiology & Public Health Education

First Advisor

Tanis J. Walch


Young adults face the opportunity to make an abundance of behavior choices when entering college. One important decision is to regularly participate in physical activity. Common barriers to physical activity may hinder an individual’s decision to make healthy behavior choices, such as physical activity. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of a women’s physical activity intervention on perceived benefits and barriers, body composition, and energy expenditure. This study took place at the University of North Dakota in the fall of 2014 using a non-randomized experimental design between two groups (n=50) of college-aged women. The first group was enrolled in one of two one-credit physical activity courses (intervention; n=15, age=21.93 years). The second group was enrolled in a freshman general requirement course (control; n=35, age=19.8 years). The intervention included a 7-week physical activity program (150 minutes/week) developed based on the Health Belief Model, which targeted perceived barriers and benefits to exercise. Each session highlighted behavior change strategies targeting barriers and benefits, followed by a physical activity session. This approach was used to promote enjoyment and lifelong engagement in physical activity. Pretest and posttest measurements included perceived benefits and barriers, body composition, and energy expenditure (SenseWear armband). Data was analyzed using ANCOVA (SPSS). The results showed that intervention women increased fat-free mass (0.49kg) compared to a loss of fat-free mass in control (-2.5kg; p=0.03). Physical performance, a benefit subscale to exercise, also showed a trend (control= -0.07; intervention= 0.13, p= 0.07). There was no significant difference in energy expenditure between groups, but there was a significant decrease in average steps between groups (p=0.04). Interventions that emphasize overcoming barriers may be an effective strategy to preventing sedentary behavior and promoting physical activity in college-age populations. Policies that mandate a physical activity course in freshman students may be one way to protect against chronic disease and overweight/obesity.