Student Voices: The Influence of the University Campus Environment on Physical Activity and Healthy Eating Habits
MetadataShow full metadata
This study investigated the experience of Auckland University of Technology (AUT)’s students in terms of the campus environment and how it affected their physical activity, eating and sedentary behaviours. The research question that this study aimed to answer was: How does the physical environment of AUT City Campus affect students’ physical activity levels, sedentary behaviour and eating behaviours? Tertiary students have been found to spend most of their time in lectures and studying. Both of which mainly consists of sitting for long periods of time (Rouse & Biddle, 2010). There is limited research on prolonged sedentary behaviour in university students and its effect on health and wellbeing. Health and wellbeing, in this study, is defined as the absence of non-communicable diseases and maintaining a healthy lifestyle by being physically fit and having a balanced nutrition. Extensive research has been conducted on the determinants of students’ eating and physical activity behaviour-however, there is limited amounts of research on the ways a university campus can facilitate healthy physical and eating habits using students’ own suggestions. In a case-design, eight participants were recruited to obtain what they considered as barriers and facilitators to being sedentary, physically active and eating healthy in the university campus. The citizen science for health equity methodology and participatory action research approach using the first two stages were followed: Discover (campus walk using an app and online surveys) and Discuss (action group). PhotoCap, an app, gathered information on individuals’ perception of enablers and barriers by capturing photos of the area or item and captioning it with brief explanations. Three surveys were included which investigated the participants’ physical and eating habits. An action group was formed to discuss possible solutions to overcome identified barriers from the campus walk. Thematic analysis of the campus walks showed the following themes related to barriers and facilitators: indoor and outdoor environment, affordability, variety, convenience, promotions and advertisements. In particular, barriers relating to: unhealthy content of vending machines, high cost of foods and gym membership, escalators and elevators that discourage stair use. Common perceived facilitators were healthy campus eateries, student kitchen areas to prepare home-cooked meals, bike racks that encourage active transport, convenient on-campus gym, basketball court and stairs promoting physical activity. Other barriers discovered in the action group were the lack of time, prioritising studying, lacking the knowledge of student benefits such as rental of sport equipment, gym location, student membership price, team sport opportunities. In summary, a need for change was identified in the lifestyle of tertiary students to facilitate physical activity, decrease sedentary activity and eat healthy through the environmental barriers identified. This study aimed to set the foundation of future research relating to the different aspects of tertiary students’ wellbeing and how it can be improved with the input of students. A case-study design gave an in-depth understanding of the campus environment effect on students and gave an insight into underlying effects.