A Scoping Review on College Student Physical Activity: How Do Researchers Measure Activity and Examine Inequities?

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background: The purpose of this scoping review was to critically examine the design and quality of contemporary research involving college student physical activity participation, focusing on physical activity measurement, assessment of sociodemographic characteristics, and examination of inequities based on sociodemographic characteristics. Methods: Systematic searches were conducted in 4 electronic databases. Results: From 28,951 sources screened, data were extracted from 488 that met the inclusion criteria. The majority of the studies were cross-sectional in design (91.4%) and employed convenience sampling methods (83.0%). Based on the subsample of studies that reported the percentage of students meeting aerobic (n = 158; equivalent of 150 min/wk of moderate physical activity) and muscle-strengthening activity recommendations (n = 8; ≥2 times/wk), 58.7% and 47.8% of students met aerobic and muscle-strengthening recommendations, respectively. With the exception of age and sex, sociodemographic characteristics were rarely assessed, and inequities based upon them were even more scarcely examined—with no apparent increase in reporting over the past decade. Conclusions: College student physical activity levels remain concerningly low. The generalizability of findings from the contemporary literature is limited due to study design, and acknowledgement of the influence that sociodemographic characteristics have on physical activity has largely been overlooked. Recommendations for future research directions and practices are provided.

The authors are with the Department of Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA.

Wilson (oww2@psu.edu) is corresponding author.

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