It is therefore worrying that based on previous research findings as discussed above, college students have an abstract and mostly incorrect understanding of the meaning of healthy lifestyles, particularly the female college students, globally. Deductively, it thus becomes essential to consider, that if college students do not have a concrete meaning of healthy lifestyles (correct or otherwise), would they be certain of the importance of being healthy? Waldron and Dieser (2010) respond to the negative. Observing a global trend of low, inadequate, and inconsistent physical activity among college students globally, the researchers implemented a qualitative research design to interview a sample of 11 college students. The study focused on evaluating “the meaning physically active college students assign to the practice of fitness and health,” thus seeking to establish whether these students linking physical activity and exercises to an essential health parameter (p. 65).
Ultimately, Waldron and Dieser (2010) found that the college students knew the “importance of healthy eating” and physical exercises, but agreed that it was impossible to maintain a healthy lifestyle while in college (p. 65). The implication of the foregoing findings is that students do not consider health as important while in college, at least not as important as to demand or even allow healthy eating and physical exercises. Most importantly however, the only benefit that these college students attached to health was “physical appearance and attractiveness,” (p. 65). Again, by implication, these students would only eat well and maintain physical exercises merely to look attractive, triggering a question of how appearance of college students could be a motivation drive to attain, and the importance of health. This explains why empirical research conducted half a decade before Waldron and Dieser’s (2010) study, Kilpatrick, Hebert and Bartholomew (2005) had established that “the highest rated motives for sport participation were competition, affiliation, enjoyment, challenge,” but the physical exercises were mainly motivated by “appearance-related motives,” even before considering any “health-related motives” (p. 92).
In their study, Kilpatrick, Hebert, and Bartholomew (2005) established that understanding motivation of physical activity among college students must not be approached from the conventional “clear benefits of an active lifestyle” (p. 87). Rather, the “lack of physical activity is a significant health problem in the college population” because this population does not ascribe the same importance value to health as would be conventionally assumed. More than as a primary strategy to attain health, the motivations to adopt physical activity and exercises among college students are “more extrinsic and focused on appearance and weight and stress management” (p. 87). The foregoing discussions helps the present review derivatively conclude that the opinions of college students on the meaning, role, importance and significance of a healthy lifestyle is rather extrinsic (appearance-based), temporal and non-prioritized part of college life. This conclusion predicts concern of the methods and strategies that college students employ to improve their health, even when it is for the sake of appearance.
All the scholars and researchers cited above have identified three specific strategies used by college students to improve their health, namely eating, exercises, and physical activity. Bulley et al. (2009) asserted that physically active lifestyles are the key strategies to improve health for college students, focusing on the adjectival trait of active, meaning physical activities/exercises. Waldron and Dieser (2010) on their part identified self-rated lifestyle behaviors that influence the health of college students, to incorporate two factors namely eating habits and physical exercises. According to Waldron and Dieser (2010), the “importance of healthy eating” and physical exercises was clear to college students (p. 65).
On his part, Schmidt (2012) conducted a study among Swedish university students to contextualize how socio-demographic factors often influence their lifestyle behaviors. These lifestyle behaviors included physical activity, exercises, and eating habits, where female college students emerged as victims of poor eating behaviors. Finally, for the present discussion, Kilpatrick, Hebert, and Bartholomew (2005) researched the motivations of physical exercises and sports among college, thus asserting that sports and physical exercises were the key strategies (eating, exercises, and physical activity) can mold the healthy lifestyles of college students towards improved health.
Expanding on what the foregoing sections have already established, college students already know the value of a healthy lifestyle. They however feel that healthy eating is impossible in college (Waldron & Dieser, 2010), physical activity as extrinsic and temporal in importance such as in improving appearance (Kilpatrick, Hebert, & Bartholomew, 2005; Waldron & Dieser, 2010), or regard health from an abstract emotive perspective (Bulley et al., 2009). This means that rather than because college students do not know the potential benefit of health and fitness, or even the strategies to attain optimal health as reviewed in the foregoing section, but what they know does not align to what they do. They thus feel it is not possible, necessary, or important to embrace optimal health and fitness while at college, as they know they should. This reveals the very core of health and fitness among college students, particularly their opinions and practices, namely their attitude.
A few months prior to implementing the present study, Li, Chen, and Baker (2014) explored the attitudes of 949 college students towards their physical education in China. Arguing that, “there have been many studies into students’ attitudes toward Physical Education at the school level,” few research studies “have been conducted at the university level,” thus predisposing an empirical research on college students attitude towards physical exercises, course and programs (p. 186). The study adopted an inter-correlated model to investigate the attitudes of college students towards several dimensions of physical education, among which were physical fitness, social development, and self-actualization. Surprising however, and against the prediction that the foregoing discussion justifies, Li, Chen, and Baker (2014) found that, college students showed “moderately positive attitudes toward physical education,” although this attitude had little or no “association with their intended lifelong participation in physical activity” (p. 186).
The surprising finding generated by Li, Chen, and Baker (2014) in China is however an exception rather than the norm when it comes to college students’ attitude towards health and fitness. In the US for instance, Silliman, Rodas-Fortier, and Neyman (2004) critically evaluated the physical exercise and diet habits of 471 college students. Defining the healthy lifestyles of the students based on physical exercises and diets, Silliman, Rodas-Fortier, and Neyman (2004) male college students had the most ignorant and careless attitude to health and fitness. For instance, compared to the female students, male college students (a) consumed higher amounts of alcohol and soft drinks, (b) used a higher fat dairy, (c) ate more red meat, and (d) ate fewer fruits and vegetables less frequently (Silliman, Rodas-Fortier, & Neyman, 2004). Identifying the lack of time in their busy college lifestyles, over 50% the college students acknowledged their diets as poor (Silliman, Rodas-Fortier, & Neyman, 2004). Regardless of their faults in dieting however, male college students “exercised more frequently and at greater intensity than women (Silliman, Rodas-Fortier, & Neyman, 2004). Nonetheless, 58% of these same ‘busy’ students, “ate vegetables and 64% ate whole or canned fruit less than once per day,” thus invalidating the claim of lack of time, and consolidating the central role of a carefree attitude (p. 10).
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