Walk Your Life to Health—Motivating Young Adolescents to Engage in a Brisk Walking Program
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Increasing numbers of overweight and obese children resulting from sedentary and abundant lifestyles are a health concern in Hong Kong and other affluent communities around the globe. The importance of physical activity is well documented for health and wellbeing, with sedentary behavior emerging as an independent risk factor for chronic diseases and mortality. In this study, Pender's Health-Promotion Model informed the development of an intervention program aimed to engage junior high school students in increased physical activity, specifically brisk-walking. The model set out to motivate participants to engage in behaviors to enhance their health across the life span, including developing self-efficacy with regard to brisk walking. The intervention featured four stages. First, participants were provided with information about the benefits and in stage two were trained in the technique of brisk walking. Next they engaged in the brisk walking program and in stage four were encouraged to serve as health ambassadors by introducing brisk walking and its associated benefits to others, thereby exercising peer influence to diffuse the practice of brisk walking more widely among members of the community. Motivational strategies were used as incentives in the program, including the involvement of a popular singing band to award certificates at the completion of the program. This 7-week intervention program including a 4-week brisk walking component was conducted in a high school context with 71 participants. Data were collected to enable paired-sample t-tests to be conducted to statistically analyze the data at pre- and post-intervention. Findings indicate significant differences among the mean Body Mass Index (BMI), Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR), knowledge and attitudes of the participants at pre- and post-intervention. These findings suggest that the intervention was effective as a strategy to reduce sedentary behavior with the concomitant effect of positive shifts in measurable indicators and attitudes.
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