Categorization and determinants of physical activity among nursing students

Leah Zanotti FitzGerald


Background: Emerging literature characterizing physical activity among student nurses suggests the majority (78%) are not meeting physical activity guidelines recommended accumulation of 30 min or more of moderate-intensity physical activity 5 day/week or 20 min of vigorous-intensity physical activity on 3 days per week to promote health. Academic stress is known to influence health through its direct physiological effect and its indirect effect via altered health behaviors and can have detrimental effects on both academic performance and health among nursing students. Determinants of physical activity are necessary to design appropriate and targeted interventions.

Methods: Eighty-five (68F/17M) aged 21 – 48 (± 0.6 yrs), pre-licensure (bachelor [BS]), master entry clinical nurse (MECN) and advanced practice nurse  (APN) students were part of a cross-sectional study to establish a baseline understanding of the status of health of the student population and then explored for subgroup differences. A convenience sample of BS, MECN and APN students were invited to take part in the study. These three cohorts were chosen because of their availability in university at the time of data collection. Physical activity was determined using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ). Determinants of physical activity were determined utilizing the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Scale, Beck Depression Inventory, Exercise Self-Efficacy Scale and the Transtheoretical Model. Descriptive statistics, ANOVA, chi-square and correlational analysis of the variables were determined.

Results: Baccalaureate students comprised 68.4% of the low physical activity category compared to 62.5% of APN students in the moderate category.  Stage of change and self-efficacy exercise values did not differ between groups. Among BS students, low ratings of life satisfaction, 36.8% mild/moderate depression values and higher days of alcohol consumption were reported with BS students reporting  +1.73 drinks/week (p < .05).

Conclusions: Baccalaureate students may be unaware of health-promotion strategies.  Nursing school provides a forum for health promotion interventions during a critical stage of personal and professional development.  Faculty members educating the next generation of nurses have a responsibility to create a healthy environment and provide students the tools and resources to develop self-care strategies.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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