Date of Award

2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Nutrition and Food Sciences

First Advisor

Geoffrey Greene, PhD, RD, LDN

Abstract

Background: Most people do not meet the recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity. Goal setting has been shown to increase health related behaviors such as these, but there has not been extensive research.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between goal setting and fruit and vegetable consumption as well as physical activity to explore the relationship between goal setting and behavior in a web-based intervention for young adults.

Design: This study used a prospective, descriptive design using data from the Project WebHealth study, which used an experimental design. The intervention included ten online lessons that provided information about fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity.

Participants/Setting: Participants (n=830) were from the experimental group of the original study. The study took place at 8 universities across the nation. Participants were 18 to 24 years (19.16  1.15), mostly female (64%) and mostly white (79%). Main outcome measures: Cups of fruits and vegetables and minutes of physical activity were reported online on a weekly basis along with weekly goal for 9 weeks.

Statistical analyses performed: ANOVAs were used to determine effects of time. Paired t-tests were used to explore the relationship between goals set and reported fruit and vegetable intake and physical activity. Meeting weekly goal was calculated and tertile of number of goals attained was used to determine goal group. ANCOVA assessed group effect. Chi-square was used to look at the association between group and whether or not participants met recommendations for each behavior at the end of the intervention.

Results: There was a significant effect of goal setting on both fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity. The effect was seen more clearly with fruit and vegetable consumption; the difference between goal and intake decreased over time, the correlation grew stronger, and the percent of subjects meeting or exceeding goals and percent of subjects meeting recommendations increased over time. For physical activity, the difference and correlation between goal and activity remained consistent throughout, the percent of subjects meeting or exceeding goals decreased over time with no significant change in percent of subjects meeting recommendations. There was a significant effect of goal group on meeting recommendations for both behaviors, which was stronger for fruit and vegetable consumption.

Conclusions: Goal setting as part of a web-based intervention was associated with an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption among young adults. While this study showed a significant effect of goal setting on physical activity, there were no increases in physical activity. Perhaps goal setting needs to be presented differently when trying to maintain versus change a behavior. There is a need for further research in this area, particularly with more reliable measures of intake and activity.

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