UBC Undergraduate Research

Assessing values and attitudes of university students regarding online fitness classes and social connection Sato-Klemm, Maya; Halliday, Kirkland; Dart, Emily; Clark, Katie


This research project examines the current levels of social connection experienced by online fitness class participants with the goal of recommending potential ways to improve social connection in virtual UBC Recreation (Rec) fitness programming. There is little literature available regarding online fitness classes in university-aged populations, and few studies have addressed how social connection can be promoted in online fitness classes. Therefore, this study aimed to understand how social connection can be fostered in a virtual fitness setting. In this study, we assessed the following three research questions: 1. Do university students value social connection during online fitness programming? 2. What do university students value in their current online fitness classes? 3. What future recommendations do university students believe will increase their social connection during online fitness programming? A cross-sectional survey consisting of both open and close-ended questions was administered through Qualtrics. Survey questions were aimed at capturing participants' current attitudes regarding social connection in online fitness programming, and their preferences regarding several recommendations of how this may be improved. The target population and inclusion criteria were UBC undergraduate students over the age of 18, who have participated in online fitness programming in the past 12 months. Fifty-one participants' responses were collected, analyzed and contributed to the final data set. Based on these participants’ responses, several key findings were generated. A majority of individuals who completed the survey believed that social connection is important during virtual fitness classes, although very few that they currently felt a sense of social connection with other participants and instructors. Individuals that engaged in live virtual programming had stronger feelings of social connection than those who only completed pre-recorded programming. While most respondents participated in pre-recorded classes, the preferred format was a mix of both live and pre-recorded classes. Furthermore, many survey respondents alluded to feeling disconnected from other participants and having a lack of motivation to complete workouts. Finally, a majority of participants were interested in completing fitness-related challenges and entering competitions, believing that this would improve their feelings of social connection in virtual fitness classes. These results led to three recommendations being put forward to be considered in order to increase feelings of social connection between participants in a virtual setting. Firstly, as a long-term recommendation, UBC Rec should start providing live virtual classes to increase social connection by allowing a setting for individuals to connect with others in classes, and with the instructor. Related to this recommendation, a second consideration would be to allow for time prior to, or after these live sessions, for participants to socialize and meet other individuals in their fitness classes. Additionally, group chats and social media groups could be created so communication can continue outside of fitness programming. A final, short-term recommendation is for UBC Rec to create challenges and competitions with interactive leaderboards to improve social connection, motivation, and provide an incentive to participate. By implementing these recommendations, based on the survey results, it is believed that social connection in UBC Rec’s online fitness classes would be increased in the university-aged population. 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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