Ward-Ritacco, Christie

Advisor Department





Kinesiology; Medicine; Exercise; Prevention; Promotion; Health

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.


As chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States, it is important to inform young adults about prevention and management of these conditions. One major risk factor for many chronic diseases is physical inactivity. Currently, 20% of adults meet the overall physical activity (PA) guidelines, with 50% meeting aerobic activity alone and only 30% participating in recommended resistance training guidelines. Along with reducing the risk for chronic disease development, other advantages of regular exercise include improving prognosis for many chronic disease conditions, increasing quality of life, and preserving and enhancing functional capacity. It would benefit our nation and healthcare system if the focus shifted to prevention of chronic disease, rather than management after onset.

The purpose of this project was to evaluate self-reported PA levels, reasons for exercise, and knowledge of chronic disease risk factors among undergraduate students enrolled in the General Education and Grand Challenge Course, “Exercise is Medicine” at the University of Rhode Island. Students answered questionnaires during the first (PRE) and the second half of the semester (POST) including, the Godin Physical Activity Questionnaire (Godin), International Physical Activity Question (IPAQ), and the Reasons for Exercise Inventory (REI). We hypothesized that class content in Exercise is Medicine would increase understanding of the role that physical activity plays in chronic disease prevention and management, and that information to this end would increase PA levels.

Students enrolled in the course (n=34; 18.9±0.9 yrs) were primarily female (53%) and first year students (71%), with mean height of 1.7±0.1, weight of 71.0±12.6 kg, and body mass index of 23.9± 3.6 kg/m2. There were no statistical differences (both p>0.05) in GodinPRE (131.1 ± 58.7) and Godin-POST (109.8 + 34.9) scores or IPAQPRE scores 4124.5 ± 1950.8 met·min-1·wk-1, and IPAQ-POST scores (4558.3 +2439.0 met·min-1·wk-1) scores. At PRE, 82% reported that they were physically active (participating in at least 30 min of moderate-intensity PA on at least three days·week-1 for at least three months), while at POST, 74% reported meeting these criteria.

The rank of the top three reasons why students exercise changed from PRE to POST. The top three reasons PRE were 1) to improve my strength, 2) to improve my muscle tone and 3) to improve my overall health. POST, the top reason for exercising was to improve overall health. Additionally, at POST, when asked to rate their agreement with the following statements (1 = do not agree, 5 = strongly agree), students reported that PA plays a key role in preventing and managing chronic diseases (4.7/5), exercise has similar benefits as medicine in terms of preventing and managing chronic disease (4.6/5), and exercise can adjust your mood and state of mind in a positive manner (4.5/5). This study demonstrated that educational material related to PA and chronic disease prevention and management positively impacts the reasons why college students exercise and are physically active. Continuing focus on this topic may help future healthcare professionals to utilize PA as a method for chronic disease prevention and management.