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Background: Entering college is associated with significant lifestyle changes and the potential adoption of a lifelong lifestyle. This study examined the longitudinal relationship between physical activity (PA) and fruit and vegetable consumption (FVC) in the hopes that findings could inform student health promotion. Methods: A total of 369 undergraduate students provided complete responses to demographic, PA, and FVC items via an online survey 3 times over a 6-month period. Random intercept cross-lagged panel modeling examined the association between PA and FVC. Results: Models demonstrated a strong fit for both moderate PA and vigorous PA. In both models, FVC, but not PA, was stable across the 3 waves. Neither model revealed a temporal association between PA and FVC. Unlike the moderate PA model, the vigorous PA model revealed a strong positive association between trait-like vigorous PA and trait-like FVC. Conclusion: The stability of FVC over time reinforces the importance of facilitating the adoption and maintenance of healthy dietary behaviors among college students, whereas the instability of PA over time highlights the importance of promoting students’ PA year round. The absence of a temporal link between PA and FVC indicates that promotion of one behavior should not be assumed to result in improvement of the other.
The authors are with the Department of Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.