Applying the theory of planned behaviour and ecological model to physical activity of university students

Por: Chun-ming Chen, Liang-mei Yang e Stuart Biddle.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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The greater proportion of university students do not engage in enough physical activity for health gains[1]. An important starting point for the understanding and promotion of health-related physical activity is the study of its theory[2]. An ecological model[3] and the theory of planned behaviour (TPB) have been suggested as key approaches to the study of physical activity correlates, but less is known about these models apply to student populations.


409 university students completed scales assessing behaviour (the Self-Administered Physical Activity Checklist (SAPAC)), and variables from the TPB: Self-efficacy Scale, Intention Scale, Social Support Scale and Ecological model (Perceived Environment Scale). Path analysis was applied to examine the effect of the variables on physical activity behaviours.


Friend support, self-efficacy and intentions affected university students’ physical activity directly. Intentions were affected by friend support, neighbourhood environment, and self-efficacy. Furthermore, self-efficacy was affected by friend support and neighbourhood environment. The model showed that family support, convenient facilities and home environment have weak links to intra-personal variables and physical activity in university students.

Discussion / Conclusions

Friend support was the most important social environmental variable that affected university students’ self-efficacy and intention to be active. Promoting university students’ physical activity levels should focus on peer support, such as group activities or exercise clubs in the university. Obviously, students’ daily routine takes place on campus and so does most of their physical activity. Students live in similar environments, and home environment and convenient facilities might result in lower variations to explain their physical activity behaviours. Only neighborhood environment indirectly affected their physical activity through their self-efficacy and intention. Environmental variables are important for university student’s physical activity levels if they can strengthen students’ thoughts and intrapersonal variables to be active where they live.


[1] Wallace, L. S., Buckworth, J., Kirby, T. E., Sherman, W. M. (2000). Preventive Medicine, 31, 494-505.
[2] Biddle, S. J. H. & Nigg, C. R. (2000). International Journal of Sport Psychology, 31, 290-304.
[3] Sallis, J. F., & Owen, N. (1998). Physical activity & behavioral medicine. Thousand Oaks, London: Sage Publications.






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