Bibha Gautam

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Ide, Bette


Graduate school is often experienced as a time of increased demands/expectations resulting in heightened levels of stress due to academic work, family responsibilities, job demands, financial pressure, and other life related issues. Besides stress, graduate school also brings about significant physical inactivity due to the shift of the immediate priority to academic accomplishment. Reports of increasing prevalence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors among students highlight that this group may have particular risk not well-identified. Yet, relative risk can be reduced by lifestyle modifications, such as eating well, exercising, and stress reduction. The majority of the risk factors, to a great extent, can be controlled by recommended amounts of exercise and physical activity (PA) alone.

This descriptive, correlational study addressed nine research questions dedicated to exploring students' existing CVD knowledge base, determining their engagement in PA, identifying the motivating and de-motivating factors for exercise, and examining the levels of coping, task, and scheduling self-efficacy. Pender's Health Promotion Model (HPM) along with Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) guided this study. A sample of349 full time graduate students with mean age of29.5 ± 8.36 completed an electronically delivered survey. Data collection instruments that were included in this 6- part survey included the following: CVD knowledge, personal health behavior, International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IP AQ) Exercise Benefits and Barriers Scale (EBBS), and Multidimensional Self-efficacy Scale (MSES). The contributions of socio-demographic variables to the prediction of PA were also explored.

The students had moderately high to very high levels of CVD knowledge. According to the IP AQ, 11.2% were highly active (> 1500 MET-min/week), 67% were moderately active ( 600-1500 MET-min/week), and 21.8% were inactive ( < 600 MET-min/ week). Students were more highly motivated than de-motivated to engage in PA. Physical performance, life enhancement, psychological outlook, and preventive health were prominent motivators for PA. Physical exertion and time expenditure were relative de-motivators. Level of study(~= -.134, p= .002) and marital status(~= -.171, p= .000), exercise motivation(~= .133, p= .010), coping self-efficacy(~= .181, p= .001), and scheduling efficacy W= .347, p= .000) were significant predictors of PA behavior.

The two theoretical models, SCT and HPM, were supported as explanations of PA behavior. PA is an essential component of a healthy life-style. Exercise motivation and self-efficacy are integrally connected with students' PA. Integrating wellness as part of the university's mission may enhance the campus climate, making it more conducive to engagement in PA by students. XVII