Background: College is a place where students develop health behaviors that persist throughout adulthood, yet a large percentage of students are not engaging in adequate physical activity. Social support is associated with physical activity; however, the effects of source (ie, family and friend) and type (ie, companionship, esteem, and informational) are not fully understood. The current study examined the effects of different sources and types of social support on college students’ physical activity behaviors. Methods: An online survey tool collected data from 733 college students enrolled at a Mid-Atlantic university. Structural equation models and a repeated-measures analysis of variance were conducted. Results: Support from family and friends was associated with physical activity behaviors; however, support from friends exerted a stronger effect. Students received different types of support from their network, which differentially influenced physical activity behaviors. Students received higher levels of companionship support from their friends and higher levels of esteem support from their family, which was positively associated with physical activity behaviors. Students received higher levels of informational support from their families, which was negatively associated with physical activity behaviors. Conclusions: This study highlights the importance of examining the independent effects of source and type of support on college students’ physical activity.
Belanger and Patrick are with the Dept of Psychology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV.