Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Health Science, Health Promotion

Major Advisor

Caile Spear


Despite increasing evidence regarding the benefits of regular physical activity and healthy nutritional habits, a large percentage of the population does not participate in regular exercise or eat the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Previous studies have identified the use of social support as a means to modify health behavior. The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of a 10-week Project PHIT intervention on university employees’ health behaviors. Grounded in social support theory, Project PHIT was designed to help employees improve health behaviors such as physical activity and nutritional intake, and increase fitness. It was expected that an intervention with activities designed to increase social support would be associated with changes in nutritional intake and physical activity behavior. Data were collected from participants (N= 26, 81% female, age M=41.13, SD= 12.28) before and after a 10-week intervention period. Participants met twice a week for 60 minutes to participate in both educational and physical activity components. Health-related fitness variables measured before and after the intervention included blood pressure, body weight, regular activity participation (e.g., PHIT class days were two days/week), and aerobic fitness (i.e., maximal oxygen uptake). Participants completed four questionnaires: 1) The Demographic and Health History Questionnaire to gather data such as age, health history, and ability to perform physical activity; 2) The Social Support Questionnaire to determine participants’ perceived level of social support relative to nutritional and physical activity habits; 3) the Fitnessgram Physical Activity Questionnaire to detect physical activity changes; and 4) The Block Food Frequency: Rapid Food Screener for Fruits, Vegetables and Fiber to detect nutrition changes, as a result of the intervention. The majority of participants (24 out of 26 or 92.3%) attended at least 86% of the sessions. Repeated measures multivariate analysis of variances indicated: (a) significant positive changes in body mass (kilograms) (p=0.01), reduced systolic blood pressure (mmHg) (p=0.033), reduced diastolic blood pressure (mmHg) (p=0.03), and aerobic capacity (VO2 max) (p=0 .01); (b) increased fruit and vegetable servings per day (p=0.03) and fiber (grams) intake (p=0.02); and (c) increased participation (two days/week) in aerobic (p<0.001), muscular strength (p<0.001) and flexibility activities (p =0.01), and average number of steps (p=0.01). Positive changes were also observed in exercise and nutritionrelated social support (p<0.001). Perceived nutrition-based social support was positively correlated with participants’ positive changes in vegetable intake (r= 0.48, p=0.02) and fiber intake (r=0.40, p=0.05). Overall, university employees responded positively to the Project PHIT program. The use of social support as a behavioral change strategy in conjunction with a variety of physical activities within a university setting may be useful for modifying health behaviors.