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Health-related fitness of undergraduate kinesiology students.

Overweight and obesity is a nation-wide epidemic associated with a variety of serious health implications that are consistent across all sociodemographic groups (Wang & Beydoun, 2007). Recent data indicate that over two-thirds of adults and one-third of youth living in the United States are currently overweight or obese and are, thus, at increased risk for morbidity and mortality (National Center for Health Statistics, 2005; Wang & Beydoun, 2007). Additionally, National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) have shown that the prevalence of obesity, in the United States, has more than doubled from 15.1% to 30.9% of the population (National Center for Health Statistics, 2005; Wang & Beydoun, 2007) over the past three decades. Consequently, obesity is now recognized as the second most common preventable cause of death in the United States, behind the use of tobacco (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001[U.S.D.H.H.S.]).

A study by Mokdad et al. (1999) supports the trends seen in the NHANES data, but also recognized that young adults, between 18 and 34, had the greatest increase in obesity rates of any age cohort (Wang & Beydoun, 2007). These findings suggest that the college-aged population are not exempt from this epidemic and may, in fact, be at greater risk for developing several obesity-related diseases including: heart disease, diabetes, and several types of cancer (Desai, Miller, Staples, & Bravender, 2008; U.S.D.H.S.S., 2001).

Review of Literature

Substantial literature has investigated behavioral determinants of health in college students over the past ten years and has primarily focused on physical activity patterns, dietary habits, alcohol use, risky sexual practices, and smoking (Anding, Suminski, & Boss, 2001; Bray & Kwan, 2006; Cooper, 2002; Lowry et al., 2000; Moore & Werch, 2008; Patterson, Lerman, Kaufmann, Neuner, Audrain-McGovern, 2004; Suminski, Petosa, Utter, & Zhang, 2002). With the exception of two studies that investigated the exercise habits of physical therapy students (Chevan & Haskvits, 2010; McWhorter, Wallmann, & Tandy, 2002), very few studies have attempted to describe the current health and fitness levels of college students. The majority of studies that do, tend to rely heavily upon self-report measures of height, weight, and body mass index (Gorber, Tremblay, Moher, & Gorber, 2007) and typically overlook other important aspects of fitness (e.g., cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength, and muscular endurance) that are necessary to gauge health-related fitness (HRF) of any population (Racette, Deusinger, Strube, Highstein, & Deusinger, 2008). Furthermore, work by McWhorter et al. (2002) represents the only study in the past thirty years that used direct physical testing to examine the health and fitness of students with respect to a specific college discipline. In this study, McWhorter et al. (2002) investigated the change in HRF of graduate-level physical therapy students before and after a two-year physical therapy program. Findings described several significant differences in various aspects of health and fitness, between the beginning and the end of the program, including: an increase in womens' body fat percentage and a decrease in mens' strength (McWhorter et al., 2002). The results of this study also demonstrate that students began their program with higher levels of HRF and experienced a regression over time (McWhorter et al., 2002). Although these findings are useful for describing physical therapy students' change in HRF, they still do not attempt to describe the HRF of physical therapy students relative to others their age. Data that compares the HRF of such groups to a criterion standard that represents the average HRF of the general population, that matches their demographic characteristics, would provide practical information about indicators of HRF of specific groups of college students. The only study to make such practical comparisons was conducted by Chevan & Haskvits (2010) who compared the leisure-time physical activity habits of physical therapy students to those of the general population as well as other health professionals. Findings revealed that physical therapy students exercise at higher rates and were more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than adults in the general population as well as other healthcare professionals. Although these findings suggest that physical therapy students have no problem obtaining adequate physical activity, it is important to note that this behavior is not typical of all healthcare professionals (Chevan & Haskvits, 2010). Therefore, research examining health and exercise behavior of other healthcare professionals and supporting college disciplines that lead to employment in the healthcare industry is required.

Personal Health Behaviors of Health Providers

The benefits of adopting and maintaining personal health practices are often overlooked by health professionals in exchange for more tangible means of increasing patients' perception of health advice such as the credentials of the information provider (e.g., medical doctor vs. physical therapist) or the nature of prescriptions (e.g., pharmacological versus behavioral). However, substantial evidence has shown that physicians and medical students that are more physically active are more likely to provide counseling on the benefits of physical activity (Abramson, Stein, Schaufele, Frates, & Rogan, 2000; Pate et al., 1995; Wells, Lewis, Leake, & Ware, 1984). Furthermore, studies by Hash, Munna, and Vogel (2003) and Frank, Breyan, and Elon (2000) have investigated the impact of physical appearance and the disclosure of healthy personal behaviors on both the perceived credibility of health professionals and their counseling information. Hash et al. (2003) found that patients who received health information from non-obese physicians had greater confidence in their advice regarding lifestyle counseling and treatment of illness when compared to advice provided by obese physicians. Frank et al. (2000) also found supporting evidence for this phenomenon in that physicians whom disclosed positive health behaviors (i.e., regular exercise and healthy dietary behaviors) with their patients were perceived as being more credible and were thus able to boost their patients motivation toward adopting healthy habits.

Therefore, convergent evidence suggests that health professionals who practice a healthy and active lifestyle and are perceived to be more physically fit are able to establish greater credibility with, and further motivate, their clients to alter their lifestyles and engage in more positive health behaviors (Frank et al., 2000; Hash et al., 2003). These findings would appear to have important implications for aspiring health professionals (e.g., medical students, physical therapy students, Kinesiology students) for whom it will eventually be important to establish and maintain a regular client base. However, to the best of our knowledge, no research has examined the HRF of college students whom may be striving to gain employment in such health-related industries.

Kinesiology Students--Aspiring Health Professionals

Many undergraduate Kinesiology programs are specifically designed to educate students on topics regarding the physiological and functional adaptations to movement/ exercise and typically include courses such as: exercise physiology, motor learning and control, biomechanics, anthropometry, and sport/exercise psychology (Banks & Wright, 2001; Gledhill & Jamnik, 2009). These courses and programs are in place to help students attain a career in one of several health-related industries such as physical education, physical therapy, cardiac rehabilitation, and athletic therapy (Banks & Wright, 2001; Gledhill & Jamnik, 2009). Therefore, it seems pertinent to accurately describe the current HRF of undergraduate Kinesiology students in attempt to distinguish areas of fitness that need improvement and consequently add to their credibility as future health providers.

Purpose

The primary purpose of the present study was to establish a valid and reliable set of baseline data that accurately describes the HRF of undergraduate Kinesiology students. It is intended that this study may serve as a model for future studies that focus on accurately describing HRF of similar populations. To establish this information, HRF will be determined by results obtained from validated exercise tests involving four major fitness components including: body composition, flexibility, muscular endurance, and cardiorespiratory endurance. Given the importance of physical appearance, credibility, and aspiring health professionals' perceived ability to motivate, a secondary purpose of this study was to compare the HRF of undergraduate Kinesiology students to contemporary recommendations set forth by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM, 1995, 2008). It was hypothesized that undergraduate Kinesiology students would exhibit equal to, or greater, HRF compared to these criterion standards that represent fair or average values for each test.

Method

Participants

The sample for this study included 227 undergraduate Kinesiology students; 98 women (age 22.09 [+ or -] 2.02 yrs.) and 129 men (age 22.58 [+ or -] 2.17 yrs.). Participants were purposively selected from a group (N= 413) of undergraduate Kinesiology students who completed all required fitness tests in the Measurement and Evaluation course (K1NE 4311) at Texas A&M University--Corpus Christi between 2004 and 2009.

Instrumentation

The instruments used in this study consisted of standard height and weight measurements, bioelectrical impedance analysis (B1A), modified sit and reach test, one-minute push up test, one-minute sit up test, and the 1.5 mile run test. Each test used in this HRF test battery is valid and reliable based on its use in previous studies and can be found in fitness testing handbooks (ACSM, 1995, 2008; Heyward, 2006; Kirby 1991). Each of the fitness components was assessed to determine the HRF of Kinesiology students. Body composition was assessed via body mass index (BMI) as well as bioelectrical impedance analysis. Flexibility was assessed by conducting a modified sit and reach test, muscular endurance was assessed using a one-minute push up test and a one-minute sit up test whereas a timed 1.5 mile run was used to estimate maximal oxygen uptake (V[O.sub.2]max) in order to assess cardiorespiratory endurance.

Procedures

After receiving ethics approval from Texas A&M University--Corpus Christi's institutional review board, the researchers obtained informed consent from each participant at the beginning of the semester. All participants were given the opportunity to decide whether or not to participate in the study and agreement to participate in the study was achieved upon signing the consent form. Participants were verbally informed of the procedures and confidentiality regarding the results of the experiment before signing and reminded again on the day of the study.

The sequence of exercise tests including: BM1, B1A, modified sit and reach test, one-minute push up test, and one-minute sit up test were completed in random order. However, the 1.5 mile run was always conducted last for all participants due to its exhaustive nature and to evade any possible interference between the performance on the run and any of the other tests. Furthermore, each test followed a standard protocol and had its own designated station with sufficient space for proper administration (ACSM, 1995, 2006; Heyward, 2006; Kirby, 1991). Body composition was initially assessed via BMI, whereby standard height and weight measurements were taken, using a spring loaded tape measure, and were converted into BMI scores (BMI: weight in kilograms / height in meters2; Heyward, 2006). Body composition was also assessed via BIA using a handheld device known as the Omron HBF-306. Additionally, all participants were instructed to refrain from drinking alcohol at least one night before being tested. When conducting the modified sit and reach test, participants were asked to remove their shoes before performing the test. The best of three trials was recorded. In the one-minute push up test, participants were instructed to perform as many continuous full-body push ups as possible in one-minute. Participants were only permitted to rest in the up position and female participants were given the option to use the modified push up technique or the standard push up technique (ACSM, 1995). The total number of full body push ups was recorded at the end of the trial. In the one-minute sit up test, participants began by lying down with their knees bent and their feet flat on the ground. They were then instructed to bring their elbows up to touch their knees as many times as possible in one minute. The total number of sit ups performed in one minute was recorded for each participant. During this test participants were permitted to have a partner hold down their feet. Lastly, the 1.5 mile run was performed on a premeasured 1.5 mile course and was timed using a standard stopwatch. Run times were recorded as each participant crossed the finish line and were used to estimate each participant's V[O.sub.2]max using a prediction equation (George, Vehrs, Allsen, Fellingham, & Fisher, 1993). For a more detailed outline of HRF testing procedures, the fitness assessment manuals by ACSM (1995), ACSM (2008), Heyward (2006) and Kirby (1991) may be referenced.

Data Analysis

Statistical package for the social sciences (SPSS), version 16.0, was used to analyze the data. Due to expected physiological differences and separate criterion measures (ACSM, 1995, 2008, Heyward, 2006), data for women and men were examined independently.

First, descriptive statistics were calculated for both women and men. Secondly, one-sample t-tests, with an alpha level set at .05, were used to compare means of HRF of undergraduate Kinesiology students to the gender-specific criterion standards recommended for each test. Criterion standards were selected based on recommended ACSM standards and were age-adjusted values that reflected fair or average scores for each of the HRF test (ACSM, 1995, 2008; Heyward 2006).

Results

Descriptive statistics were calculated, for women and men, to determine means and standard deviations of age, height, weight, BMI, fat mass, and fat-free mass of the sample. See Table 1 for descriptive data.

Women

The data from one-sample t-tests indicate that women performed significantly better than the criterion standards on the modified sit and reach test (i.e., FLEX), one-minute push up test (i.e., PUSH), and one-minute sit up test (i.e., SIT). However, scores reflecting body composition (i.e., BMI and BIA) were found to be significantly higher than the criterion standards. In other words, female Kinesiology students' BMI scores and body fat percentages were found to be significantly higher than the recommended ACSM standards (ACSM, 2008). With regards to women's cardiorespiratory endurance (i.e., estimated V[O.sub.2] max), no significant differences were found. Detailed results of all one-sample t-tests for female Kinesiology students including: criterion standards, means, standard deviations, t-values, and p-values may be found in Table 2.

Men

Data from one sample t-tests revealed that male Kinesiology students performed significantly better than the criterion standards on the modified sit and reach test, one-minute push up test, and one-minute sit up tests. However, they performed significantly poorer than the gender-specific criterion standards on both body composition measurements (i.e., BMI and BIA) as well as cardiorespiratory endurance (i.e., estimated V[O.sub.2]max). See Table 3 for detailed results of all one-sample t-tests for male Kinesiology students including: the criterion standards, means, standard deviations, t-values, and p-values.

After reviewing these initial findings, correlations (Pearson r) were computed to examine the relationship between body composition measurements and cardiorespiratory endurance. Results indicated a moderate relationship between BIA and V[O.sub.2] max (r = .64, p <.01).

Discussion

The primary purpose of this study was to examine undergraduate Kinesiology students' HRF by means of direct physical testing. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to attempt to describe the HRF of college students with respect to the college discipline of Kinesiology and compare them to recommended ACSM standards. The results of this study indicate several significant differences between the HRF of undergraduate Kinesiology students and the recommended ACSM standards for both women and men. These findings recognize several aspects of Kinesiology students' HRF that may need to be improved in order to enhance their personal health as well as their effectiveness as future health professionals.

When compared to the criterion standards, the results of this study indicate that female Kinesiology students scored significantly higher in body composition, significantly higher in flexibility and muscular endurance, and relatively similar in terms of cardio-respiratory endurance. When examining body composition, female Kinesiology students displayed a significantly higher BMI and body fat percentage than the recommended ACSM standard. However, when examining flexibility and muscular endurance, female Kinesiology students exceeded the criterion standard by reaching further in the modified sit and reach test and performed significantly more push ups and sit ups in the allotted time for each test.

These results suggest that this specific population of students maintain an adequate level of activity allowing them to exceed the gender-specific criterion standards of these HRF tests. In light of these findings, female Kinesiology students should not disregard the fact that they may have significantly higher body fat percentage than the recommended ACSM standard. Therefore, interventions designed to reduce and properly manage body fat mass is recommended. Based on the results of this study, the HRF of female undergraduate Kinesiology students only appears to be lacking in terms of body composition. These findings are consistent with data from McWhorter et al. (2002) who found that female physical therapy students also had body fat measurements greater than the criterion standard of 23%, but only at the end of the 2-year physical therapy program.

The data in this study also revealed that male Kinesiology students scored lower on cardiorespiratory endurance tests and higher on body composition, flexibility and muscular endurance tests when compared to gender-specific criterion standards. When examining body composition male undergraduate Kinesiology students displayed significantly higher BMI scores and body fat percentages than the recommended ACSM standard. Similarly, male Kinesiology students performed significantly lower in terms of cardiorespiratory endurance than the criterion standard, which was reflected by longer run times and, consequently, lower estimated VO, max. These findings are comparable to those in a study by Mitchell et al. (2008) where male medical students' performances in the 1.5 mile run were shown to decrease over a two-year period. The relationship found between body composition and cardiorespiratory endurance for male Kinesiology students suggests that cardiorespiratory endurance may, in part, be the result of a significantly higher body fat percentage. Thus, a reduction in body fat percentage may lead to improved cardiorespiratory endurance. These results indicate body composition and cardiorespiratory endurance are areas for potential improvement of HRF in male undergraduate Kinesiology students. The development of interventions designed to reduce body fat mass and enhance cardiorespiratory endurance may benefit this population by reducing the risk of long-term health complications.

Another interesting finding from the analyses howed that male Kinesiology students display significantly higher muscular endurance when compared to the criterion standard. It is possible that significantly higher muscular endurance and significantly lower cardiorespiratory endurance could be indicative of male Kinesiology students' preference for certain exercises or activities. In other words, male Kinesiology students may have a tendency to engage in, and rely on, anaerobic activities (e.g., resistance training or anaerobic sports) as their primary source of physical activity in lieu of more aerobic endeavors (e.g., jogging, swimming or cycling). However, further research must be conducted to verify any significant preferences in terms of identifying the preferred mode of physical activity for male Kinesiology students. Finally, based on the results of this study, the overall HRF of male undergraduate Kinesiology students appeared to fall short of recommended ACSM standards with respect to body composition and cardiorespiratory endurance.

In light of these findings, Kinesiology programs may consider implementing a HRF requirement for students pursuing a degree in Kinesiology in order to properly prepare them for effective practices in professional health-related settings. Although the primary purpose of improving HRF is to minimize health risks, it may be advantageous for aspiring health professionals to familiarize themselves with the professional benefits of improved HRF including: establishing their own positive health habits (i.e., exercise and diet regimen), enhanced credibility with future patients/clients, as well as improving their ability to motivate others to alter their behavior (Frank et al., 2000; Hash et al., 2003; McWhorter et al., 2002; Mitchell et al., 2008). Previous studies support this idea in that, perceptions of physical fitness can have a significant impact on one's own behavior as well as the behavior of others (Frank et al., 2000; Hash et al., 2003; Heaps, 1978; Rejeski & Sanford, 1984). Therefore, Kinesiology students may also have a unique opportunity to promote a healthy lifestyle to other college students on campus through peer modeling or practical interventions (e.g., campus community fitness screening; Brown, Lynott, & Heelan, 2008) that stimulate health and fitness awareness.

Limitations

Readers should consider several limitations when interpreting the results of this study. First, since the main objective of the Measurement and Evaluation course was to teach Kinesiology students proper physiological assessment techniques, the students were responsible for administering the majority of the fitness tests and were required to follow standard fitness testing procedures in attempt to minimize variation in test administration. Although the experience of test administrators is not considered a major source of measurement error for the tests used in this study, it is possible that minor variations in body positioning and repetition counts during muscular endurance tests may have occurred and thus should be noted as a potential source of measurement error. Similar to many exercise-related studies, 'expected effort' may also have been a limiting factor. Although the participant's were expected to put forth their best effort, students' internal motivation was neither controlled nor monitored. It is also possible that maximum effort, on certain tests (i.e., push up and sit up tests) may have been limited due to participants' prior knowledge of criterion standards. Although academic incentives were provided for the student that achieved the highest scores in each test, some participants chose to cease effort after reaching the criterion standard. It is also important to note that the training habits of participants may have been altered considering students were informed, at the beginning of the course, that they would be evaluated on their performance on several HRF tests at the culmination of the course. Finally, participants physically unable to participate in the study due to chronic or acute injury at the time of the test were another limitation. Such participants' scores were not recorded and thus are not included in the results.

Conclusion

Several studies have justified the need to enhance physical activity levels of college students for the purpose of improving health (Behrens & Dinger, 2003; Bray & Kwan, 2006; Lowry et al., 2000; Mestek et al., 2008; Nelson et al., 2007); however, this study was the first to use direct physical tests to describe the HRF of a specific academic discipline (i.e., undergraduate Kinesiology students) and compared them to widely accepted standards. This research also highlights the professional benefits associated with greater HRF, which may be particularly pertinent to this group of college students. In the future, Kinesiology students should strive to avidly apply the subject knowledge acquired in their courses, to their everyday lives and become familiar with the professional benefits associated with projecting positive health behaviors.

Future Directions

Although this study was specifically designed to describe and compare Kinesiology students HRF to recommended ACSM standards, it would be interesting to compare the HRF of Kinesiology students to an equivalent group of students from other college disciplines (i.e., non-Kinesiology students) or a sample of individuals whom are not enrolled in college. Such comparisons would provide a more accurate understanding of how undergraduate Kinesiology students measure up to other groups, of similarly aged individuals, in terms of their HRF. Future research should also be directed toward establishing appropriate levels of HRF for undergraduate Kinesiology students. Such knowledge may be useful in determining the lowest levels of HRF required for students and practicing professionals to obtain the health and professional benefits of maintaining healthy behaviors. Furthermore, researchers may also consider examining the HRF of Kinesiology students across various institutions and abroad in order to test the generalizability of these results. Once the HRF of Kinesiology students is well understood, researchers can begin to identify behaviors that contribute to areas of poor HRF and develop practical strategies to improve them.

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Paul Saville

McMaster University

Frank Spaniol, Liette Ocker, Randy Bonnette, Don Melrose and Lindsey Jarrett

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

Address correspondence to: Paul Saville PhD., C.S.C.S. Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University Hamilton, Ontario Canada L8S 4L8. Email: savillpd@univmail.cis.mcmaster.ca
Table 1
Descriptive Statistics for Female and Male Undergraduate Kinesiology
Students

                        Women                     Men

Variable            M [+ or -] SD            M [+ or -] SD

Age (years)      22.09 [+ or -] 2.02      22.85 [+ or -] 2.17
Height (in)      64.69 [+ or -] 2.97      69.89 [+ or -] 3.12
Weight (lbs)    141.87 [+ or -] 25.72    189.82 [+ or -] 32.92
BMI1              23.91 [+ or -] 4.2       27.4 [+ or -] 4.65
FM (%)2          24.34 [+ or -] 6.46       17.64 [+ or -] 6.9
FFM (%)3         75.66 [+ or -] 6.46       82.36 [+ or -] 6.9
                        n = 98                  n = 129

(1) Body Mass Index, (2) Fat Mass Percentage, (3) Fat-Free
Mass Percentage.

Table 2
Results of one-sample t-tests for Women by Health-Related Fitness
Tests

HRF Test          Criterion        M [+ or -] SD         t        P
                   Standard

BMI1                 21.7           23.91 + 4.2         5.21    .00 **
BIA2 (%BF)           22.1       24.34 [+ or -] 6.46     3.43    .00 **
Flexibility          14.8          16.89 + 3.18         6.53    .00 **
  (in)
Push ups              26       39.08 [+ or -] 11.64    11.13    .00 **
Sit ups               35        41.9 [+ or -] 8.32      8.21    .00 **
V[O.sub.2]max        37.8       38.48 [+ or -] 6.8      .986     .33
  (ml/kg/min)

(1) Body Mass Index, (2) Bio-electrical impedance Analysis, * p [less
than or equal to] .05, ** p < .01

Table 3
Results of one-sample t-tests for Men by Health-Related Fitness Tests

HRF Test          Criterion        M [+ or -] SD         t        P
                   Standard

BM1 (1)              21.7       27.4 [+ or -] 4.65      13.9    .00 **
BIA (2) (%BF)        15.9       17.64 [+ or -] 6.9      2.87    .00 **
Flexibility          14.4       16.53 [+ or -] 3.21     6.58    .00 **
  (in)
Push ups              33       44.39 [+ or -] 15.16     8.53    .00 **
Sit ups               40        47.14 [+ or -] 8.35     9.71    .00 **
V[O.sub.2]max        44.2      42.23 [+ or -] 18.77    -2.56    .01 *
 (ml/kg/min)

(1) Body Mass Index, (2) Bio-electrical impedance Analysis, * p [less
than or equal to] .05, ** p < .01
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Author:Saville, Paul; Spaniol, Frank; Ocker, Liette; Bonnette, Randy; Melrose, Don; Jarrett, Lindsey
Publication:Journal of Sport Behavior
Article Type:Report
Date:May 14, 2014
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