UBC Undergraduate Research

Female International Students Experiences With Physical Activity on UBC Campus Stevens, Allison; Larsen, Evangeline; Bailey, Makenna; Kamalian, Sahba; Marconato, Dante


Physical activity (PA) has proven time and time again to have countless positive effects on our health (World Health Organization, 2018). The literature shows that many populations, such as university students, are not engaging in enough PA and therefore are not reaping the benefits (Böke, Mills, Mettler & Heath, 2019). Within the university student population, evidence shows that female international students are a specific subset of this population with some of the lowest PA rates (Lovell et al., 2010). This study aims to understand some of the factors that relate to why this specific population has lower PA participation rates. It also offers evidence-based suggestions as to how these low PA rates can be increased. This mixed methods study looked at common barriers participants face, gaps in programming, and key areas for improvement. This study was conducted with an anonymous Qualtrics survey link that was posted on multiple Facebook groups and pages. Participants were able to complete the survey on their own time. The survey consisted of six questions, both qualitative and quantitative. All participants were individuals who self-identified as female and who had moved from outside of Canada to attend UBC. First, the survey looked specifically at the number of days in a week that participants engaged in PA. Next it looked at how much individuals thought a variety of common barriers, such as financial and accessibility barriers, affected their participation in PA on campus. The final questions of the survey allowed individuals a space to contribute any recommendations they had to improve the PA environment on UBC campus. Results showed that “inclusivity” had the highest average score for barriers. It also yielded many anecdotal responses with important key words such as “unwelcoming” and “too crowded”. These results provided us with evidence that led to the following five recommendations aimed to improve the current PA environment for female international students at UBC. Our first recommendation is that UBC Recreation offers classes in Mandarin and other common foreign languages. This will allow individuals who may speak English as a second language to participate in PA activities in a more comfortable setting. Our second recommendation is that UBC Recreation offers a variety of female only fitness classes. These will address the gender stereotypes that many PA settings have. Our third recommendation is that promotion of UBC Recreation programs be more heavily focused on the beginner and entry-level programs. This will allow students to increase their awareness around programs that are accessible to all abilities. This was an issue highlighted in the data collection. Our fourth recommendation is that UBC residences provide access to personal trainers on-site in the residences. This will allow students easy access to a fitness outlet in a familiar setting. Our final recommendation is that UBC Recreation strives towards building a permanent female-only gym facility. This would allow a safe and comfortable space for females to exercise while also increasing the number of PA facilities on campus. Further research should be done to see how to best implement these recommendations. However they provide a foundation for improvement of the PA environment at UBC. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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