Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Jessica Gokee LaRose; George J. Allen

Field of Study



Master of Arts

Open Access

Open Access


College is a pivotal time for weight gain and unhealthy behavior changes in many young adults. Decreases in physical activity are common in this age group and likely contribute to the 1.6 to 1.8 kg weight gain that is often observed in the first year of college. Identifying groups of students who are at high-risk for decreasing or discontinuing physical activity may help develop more targeted interventions. The present study explored physical activity patterns in the first semester of college and examined predictors of exercise decreases to levels below recommended daily values within a Self-Determination Theory framework. Incoming freshman (n=174; 42.5% male; 85.6% White; 18.2+.8 yrs; BMI = 22.6+2.8 kg/m2) that met recommended daily values (RDV; 150 minutes/week) for physical activity (PA) at the start of the semester completed baseline psychosocial questionnaires and then reported PA levels 12 weeks into the first semester. Logistic regression was used to identify significant predictors of exercise status (maintained or decreased below RDV). Of freshman who met PA recommended daily values upon entering college, 28.2% were no longer doing so by the end of the study. These students were most likely to endorse lack of willpower (p=.02) and lack of time (p=.07) as barriers than exercise maintainers. Females were twice as likely as males to fall into the decreased exercise category (p=.05). Consistent with the SDT model, greater autonomous motivation for exercise predicted maintenance status (p=.02); however, controlled motivation and competence were not significant predictors. Further examination of the role of motivation in exercise maintenance, particularly autonomous vs. controlled self-regulation and whether these forms of motivation can be modified, is warranted. Intervention studies targeting autonomous motivation levels as well as college females may greatly benefit this high-risk population.

Major Advisor

Amy A. Gorin