Poster Presentation Australian & New Zealand Obesity Society 2015 Annual Scientific Meeting

A qualitative exploration of how and why physical activity and sedentary behaviour change in the post-secondary school transition (#238)

Jennifer R Hatt 1 , David Crawford 1 , Verity Cleland 2 , Anna Timperio 1
  1. Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, Deakin University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  2. Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Physical activity (PA) and sedentary behaviour (SB) are important modifiable health behaviours, with PA inversely, and SB positively associated with obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, type II diabetes mellitus and mortality. However, it is common for levels of PA to decrease and SB to increase with age. For example, Australian 15-17 year olds perform 62 minutes of PA and three hours of SB per day, but 18-24 year olds perform only 39 minutes of PA and 5.5 hours of SB. Leaving secondary school is a key transitional period when individuals may be more susceptible to detrimental changes in behaviour.

This study aimed to explore recent school leavers’ (<3 years) experiences of changes in their PA and SB post-secondary school and the reasons for any changes. Participants (n=29, 19.1±1.0 years, 55% female and 86.2% studying) were recruited via flyers, group advertising, snowball sampling and social media. Semi-structured one-on-one interviews were conducted via telephone, face-to-face or skype. Interviews were recorded and transcribed. Thematic analyses were performed using NVivo.

Only one participant described maintaining both PA and SB over the transition out of secondary school. The remainder described both increases and decreases in PA and SB. Contrary to previous research, some participants described increases in PA and decreases in SB. Many described changes in their free time, contact hours, study commitments and employment as reasons for changes in PA and SB. Social network was frequently mentioned but was described as having both a positive and negative influence on their behaviours.

Adolescents may need to be equipped with strategies to minimise decreases in PA and increases in SB as a result of new demands on their time during the transition into early adulthood.