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Physical Activity Among High School Students

Physical Activity Among High School Students


            For high school students, physical activity is an important lifestyle factor that plays an integral role in disease prevention and health promotion in adult years and therefore foster better quality of life (Bernstein, & McMahon, 2018). It is therefore important to ensure that good habits with regard to adequate physical activity have been reinforced throughout the school environment (Economos, 2014). Poor physical activity among high school students is a problem that should be addressed urgently through a health and wellness initiative. The current health and wellness initiative is meant to raise awareness of the importance of physical activity for adolescents and chart a roadmap that will enable adolescents with poor physical activity habits to drop such habits and adopt productive physical activity behaviors. The wellness initiative is therefore directly linked to the wellness problem that is poor physical activity behaviors among adolescents.

Change Initiative

            A specific behavior that is related to the health and wellness program of poos physical activity among adolescents is withdrawal from sporting activities. Sports is an important activity through which physical activity can be promoted (Kohl, & Cook, 2013). Sporting activities helps individuals to engage in physical activity through participation in the sport as well as in training. Therefore, a withdrawal from sporting activity among adolescents signals an abandonment of physical activity and a move towards sedentary lifestyles.

Behavioral learning theory

From a behavioral perspective, the antecedents to sports withdrawal among high school students include reduced parental supervision, gender stereotyping, and competing activities. Strategies that can be used to change the behavior of the students include increasing the focus on physical activity education and sports and rescheduling the school timetable to include more activity breaks. The theory of operant conditioning is dependent on reinforcement to foster changes in behavior. Reinforcement can be used to promote behavior change and lead to the adoption of productive physical activity habits by incentivizing sports participation. Rewards for those who participate in sporting activities on a regular basis can be a good way to engage and motivate the learners.

On the other hand, educators can also be encouraged to participate in school sporting activities so as to model the way in accordance to the scaffolding theory of learning. Activity breaks will directly increase the amount of physical activity for the adolescents and make them used to physical activity while more focus on physical activity education will help the adolescents appreciate more the importance of physical activity and so adjust their behavior accordingly.

Cognitive learning theory

            Operant conditioning is one of the cognitive theories that can be utilized to foster behavior change among adolescents with regard to adequate physical activity. A principle of the theory that is relevant to the health problem to be addressed as well as the demographic needs of the targeted population is the concept of reinforcement. Reinforcement is an integral construct of the operant conditioning theory which is to the effect that consequences of certain behaviors can be used to strengthen responses to the behavior (McSweeney, & Murphy, 2014)

Negative reinforcement can be used to discourage poor physical activity habits among adolescents while positive reinforcement ca be used to reinforce desired physical activity behaviors. Principles of the theory that are relevant to the issue include punishment which can be used to discourage poor physical activity behaviors, shaping, and removal punishment. An integral assumption of the theory that is relevant to the issued is to the effect that changes in behavior are the only sure indications of learning. Only through behavior change will it be confirmed that the adolescents have effectively learned. Various interventions and strategies will be used to facilitate learning among the adolescents. The first intervention will be to provide sufficient educational programs on physical activity and incorporate physical activities into the curriculum.

To promote engagement, interactive media including computer-tailored sessions will be used to facilitate such educational sessions. Another strategy to promote engagement in physical activity will be to ensure there is sufficient game equipment within the school. Another strategy that will be used will be the development of persuasive messages that will be targeted to the adolescent students. These persuasive messages will be tailored to stimulate cognitive thinking about physical activity with a focus towards better physical activity behaviors. Modifications to the school ethos and environment will be another intervention aimed at promoting physical activity among adolescent students.

This entails awareness creation through a demonstration that the school values physical activity and sports and embedding such into the school culture. Other strategies would be to build mindsets of active lifestyles, actively involving the students in the change decision, facilitating self-monitoring, and creating a pros and cons table where the adolescents are asked to evaluate their reasons for not participating in physical activities against the reasons why they should participate thereby reinforcing sufficient reasons for change. If these strategies and interventions are effectively implemented, then the adolescents will be aware of the importance of physical activity, gain sufficient knowledge with regard to living active lifestyles, and adopt positive behaviors that facilitate proper physical activity.

Social constructivism theory

            Physical activity is integral to the overall health and well-being of adolescents (Fromel, Kudlacek, Groffik, Svozil, Simunek, & Garbaciak, 2017). Poor and inadequate physical activity could lead to serious health complications that may affect such young person’s long onto the future and reduce their quality of life. Therefore, there is an urgent need to address the issue of poor attitudes and behaviors among adolescent students with regard to physical activity participation. Social constructivism approach can be used to foster behavior change among adolescents and facilitate the adoption of desirable physical activity habits and behaviors.

The assumptions and/or principles of social constructivism that are relevant to the issue of physical activity among adolescent students are; learning is a social activity, knowledge arises from human interactions, and knowledge is socially and culturally constructed (influenced by the group and the environment). Physical activity behaviors among adolescents is heavily impacted upon by their interactions with others within the environment. Therefore, the key to fostering proper physical activity behaviors is to ensure that interactions within the environment and the group provides an enabling platform for the recognition of the fundamental importance of physical activity. 

            The social constructivism approach states that people develop knowledge through interactions with culture and society as well as through a process of social negotiation and assessment of the appropriateness and adequacy of social understanding. There are various social constructivist approaches that can be used to the physical activity needs of adolescents. Since the construction of knowledge is to some extent dependent on the interactions between individuals and the environment, an important strategy and intervention would be to modify the school environment to enhance knowledge construction on the importance of physical activities. For example, by making physical activity and sports a priority and developing sufficient facilities to motivate and engage the students.
            Another strategy that can be used is the cognitive tools perspective which focuses on the learning of cognitive skills. Teachers should incorporate within the physical education learning plane adequate approaches that develop, nurture, and sharpen the cognitive abilities of the students. One of these tools is the use of practice and reflection. Rather than merely teaching students the importance of physical activity, teachers should allow the students adequate opportunities to apply and practice what they have learned within the classroom and reflect upon such activities so as to be able to construct meaning and recognize the relevance and applicability in their learning. To increase student engagement, cooperative group learning should be adopted. Students are put in groups and then the teacher delegates responsibility on multiple learning tasks.

Through such cooperative learning, a high-rate of engagement will be fostered. Other strategies that can be used are continuous assessments and self-assessments, proper scheduling of physical activities, and modifying activities to suit the developmental needs of the students.  The strategies and interventions discussed above are anticipated to help increase the knowledge and awareness of the students about the importance of physical activity on their health and well-being and develop necessary skills that will facilitate the adoption of desirable physical activity behaviors.


            Evaluation is a very important component of the overall health and wellness change initiative plan. It is only through proper evaluation that the effectiveness of the initiative can be established and necessary modifications and improvements made to ensure that the desired outcomes have been met. To collect data for evaluating the change initiative, observations, surveys, and self-assessments will be utilized. The students will be keenly observed to note whether there are any changes in their physical activity habits, surveys conducted to gauge the effectiveness of the initiative from the perspective of relevant stakeholders, and self-assessments administered to highlight the progress made by the high school students as a result of the change initiative. The change initiative is expected to have a significant impact on the target population. In particular, the change initiative is expected to lead to the adoption of proper and positive physical activity behaviors and habits by the high school students.


Bernstein, M., & McMahon, K. (2018). Nutrition across life stages. Burlington, Massachusetts: Jones & Bartlett Learning

Economos, C. (2014). The healthy eating and active time club curriculum: Teaching children to live well. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics

Fromel, K., Kudlacek, M., Groffik, D., Svozil, Z., Simunek, A., & Garbaciak, W. (2017). Promoting Healthy Lifestyle and Well-Being in Adolescents through Outdoor Physical Activity. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(5), 533.

Kohl, H. W., & Cook, H. D. (2013). Educating the student body: Taking physical activity and physical education to school. Washington: National Academies Press.

McSweeney, F. K., & In Murphy, E. S. (2014). The Wiley Blackwell handbook of operant and classical conditioning. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell



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