Case Study: Exercise Habits of University Students the Questionnaire

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Exercise Habits of University Students

The questionnaire used for this study concentrates on the exercise attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of Syracuse University students. Demographic, attitudinal and forced-choice rankings of criterion used to evaluate activities, work-out facilities on and off-campus, and analysis of time demands on students are included in the survey. A total of 26 questions comprise the survey. The majority of questions yield ordinal and interval-level data which is reliable for summarization and analysis.

Aggregate Results

The distribution of respondents between genders is relatively even, with 49.8% being female and 50.2% being male. Over half (53.3%) are seniors and are between the ages of 21 and 22 (54.8%). A large proportion of the sample lives in a rented apartment or house (47.5%) which gives them greater flexibility in defining an exercise routine at home and also having greater privacy and freedom of when and where they work. Nearly two of every three respondents (65.5%) have a motor vehicle and also live within a six to 10 minute walk from campus. 28% say they do not use on-campus facilities to work out as the parking is too difficult around SU's gyms. The fact that the respondent population is so mobile yet uses the on-campus facilities so infrequently points more to the lack of time and the lack of perceived need to work out. There is a paradox in the data however as the 26.8% of the sample work out more than once a week choose to use the SU facilities (61.7%) and 23.8% chose to use their own residences. Of those that do exercise, the majority are exercising two to three times a week (29.9%) and they average 60 minutes or longer per workout the majority of the time (26.4%). The most popular activities are free weights (43.7%), weight machines (39.1%), cardio machines (38.7%), running and jogging (29.9%), walking (19.2%), aerobics (18.4%), basketball (17.6%) and lacrosse (11.1%). The most popular activities in this analysis can be done year-round in a gym, which further reinforces the commitment of the 26.8% of respondents in the sample who continue to work out all year long.

Respondents work out the majority of the time to feel better about themselves (27.2%), followed by the motivation to look better (25.7%), because they enjoy it (24.7%) and also to relieve stress (21.8%). The dichotomy in the results show however that despite seeing these benefits only a minority of the total sample of students actually work out on a regular basis. After evaluating the entire data set of this analysis it is clear that students are motivated to work out for these factors mentioned, yet have time shortages that span the spectrum of the mild to the severe. 41.8% have a part-time job and the majority working between six to ten hours (16.1%) followed by those that work between 11 to 15 hours per week (8.8%). Students see the value of working out, appreciate how it makes them feel about themselves, and in some cases even correlate aerobic activity with being able to concentrate more effectively (16.9% rated this as slightly important). The next section of this analysis will evaluate six different research questions to determine why, despite seeing the value of exercise, students do not regularly participate.

Analysis of Additional Research Questions

Gaining insights into why respondents do not exercise is the intent of this section. Concentrating on the reasons why students exercise, the types of exercising they do and the reasons for not exercising will provide these insights when analyzed by demographic and attitudinal data. Each of the six questions will be defined and a response to each given.

The first question is which demographic group is most represented by the reasons for not exercising. The most common factor attributed by respondents for lack of exercising is lack of time (6.9%). Analyzing which specific demographic groups face the greatest time shortage, it's clear that juniors (10.4%) who are in the 21 to 22 age group (8.4%) face the most severe time shortage. This time shortage is equally shared across male and female students (6.4%). This severe time crunch can be attributed to juniors just beginning their upper-division courses and needing to spend an inordinate amount of time on coursework and projects. Lack of time as represented by a time shortage is also attributable to 41.8% having a part-time job as well, the majority spending six to ten hours week on this activity. The second most common reason for not exercising is not seeing the need to (4.6%). The majority of respondents who don't see the need to exercise are men (6.1%), juniors (5%) and between 23 to 24 years old (25%). Consistent across these two factors of lack of time (6.9%) and not seeing the need (4.6%) is the finding that the majority of respondents who don't exercise as a result of these factors are juniors just beginning their upper-division course workloads. Upper division courses are often inordinately more challenging, time-consuming and when the factor of part-time work of all respondents is added into the analysis, it's clear that the more advanced the student is in their academic progress, the more severe the time pressure is. As a result, exercise is one of the first activities to be left out of their lives.

The second research question is to assess which demographic groups place the highest priority in the reasons for exercising. On an aggregate level these include felling better about themselves (27.2%), looking better (25.7%) and relieving stress (21.8%), Breaking these three most common reasons why respondents exercise by demographics yields the following insights.

The most common factor respondents cite in continuing with their exercise programs is to feel better about themselves (27.2%). As the strongest factor or reason why respondents continue an exercise program, this factors shows significant commitment between of men (43.4%) and women (28.9%). As with all factors that serve as continual motivators to exercise, there is no significant drop-off in activity for upperclassmen that often have the most severe time pressures. The distribution of respondents by class is as follows: 16.7% are freshmen, 43.5% are sophomores, 27.3% juniors and 38.5% are seniors. Even with the severe time demands of upper division classes, the benefit of feeling good about themselves acts as a consistently powerful motivator to keep respondents committed to an exercise program over the long-term. The second most common factor for continuing to exercise is the potential to look better (25.7%). In the respondent sample 41.8% of males and 26.8% of females cited this as the primary reason for working out. There is no drop-off in commitment over their four-year programs to an exercise program when respondents are motivated by looking better as a result of exercise. 33.3% of freshmen, 32.6% of sophomores, 27.3% of juniors and 37.5% of seniors all cited this factor as very important as to why they continue to exercise. As is the case with the other positive factors leading to exercise, students who face time shortages also find the time to exercise as well. With just a slight reduction in their junior year (27.3%) respondents see the value of working out to sustain and enhance their appearance as worth the time invested, or they would have otherwise quit. The third most common factor for continuing an exercise program is to reduce stress (21.8%). Women (8.2%) work out four times more than men (2%) to reduce stress. Women see working out as a stress reduction strategy throughout academic careers to a much greater extent than men do. This is seen in the stratification of responded by class with regard to working out being a means to relieve stress. 8.3% of the freshman class of those that work out regularly, followed by 6.5% (sophomores), 6.1% (juniors) and 3.8% (seniors). What is noteworthy about this stratification is that there is little drop-off on the motivation to work out when a respondent crosses from underclass to upper-class. This has been a factor in the reduction and eventual quitting of exercise programs of upper-classmen with a steep reduction in juniors especially.

The third question is which of the types of exercise are most popular with each demographic group of the sample. There is an inherent sampling bias in this question as 45.7% of male respondents answered the question, "What types of exercise do you do" and only 6.5% of female respondents chose to participate. This heavily skews the activities analysis which follows towards male respondents of the survey as a result. When specific types of exercises by gender are analyzed, the loyalty one gender vs. another has to type of activity becomes apparent. An example of this is cardio exercises which 38.7% of all respondents report participating in. When evaluated from the standpoint of longevity of commitment by class, 50% of freshmen, 64.3% of sophomores, 58.1% of juniors and 50.5% of seniors continue to participate in this activity despite time shortages inherent in upper-division courses. Respondents who specialize in or develop an affinity and loyalty for a given type of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Exercise Habits of University Students the Questionnaire."  Essaytown.com.  May 4, 2010.  Accessed April 18, 2019.
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