Aspen E. Streetman1, Blake D. Goodman1, Katie M. Heinrich1, FACSM

1Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS

Reduced physical activity (PA) during college is well-documented. Evidence shows many students gain weight as they progress through college. PA declines and increased weight gain may be more pronounced in female students. While childhood sports participation and adult PA engagement are linked, it is unclear if high school sports participants maintain PA throughout their college years. Purpose: To explore the relationship between women’s high school sports participation and subsequent college PA engagement; high school sports participants were hypothesized to engage in more PA during college. Methods: College women (N = 371) aged 18-24 completed an online cross-sectional survey. Basic demographic information and current PA were collected via the International PA Questionnaire (IPAQ). High school sports participation was determined through an open-ended question asking participants to list sports in which they participated. Responses were coded numerically (0 = non-participant, 1 = participant) for analysis. Due to highly skewed data, a Mann-Whitney U-test was used for between-group differences. Only responses for which participants provided answers to IPAQ and participation in high school sports were analyzed (n = 292). Results: Most respondents (86.6%, n = 253) indicated high school sports participation. Mean total MET-minutes (vigorous-intensity PA + moderate-intensity PA + walking) among high school sports participants (n = 253) were 4181.1 ± 4381.2 (range = 49.5-19,278). Among high school non-sports participants (n = 39) mean total MET-minutes were 1893.5 ± 2110.1 (range = 30-13,428). This difference in total MET-minutes was statistically significant (U = 6,769.5, p < .001). Conclusion: College women who had participated in high school sports currently engaged in more PA than those who had not participated in high school sports, thus supporting our hypothesis. Likely mechanisms explaining the between-group difference in PA include enhanced PA self-efficacy via high school sports experience. Because students are at high risk for developing obesity and other negative health behaviors during college, it is essential to identify protective factors that may reduce risk and promote healthful behaviors. Our data suggest high school sports participation may be one such protective factor.

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