Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


Date of this Version

Spring 4-19-2011


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies, Under the Supervision of Professor Ronald Bonnstetter. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2011

Copyright 2011 Megan J. Hylok


A nationwide survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control in 2007 reported 65% of high school students did not meet the recommendation that youth participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week (CDC, 2008). While research has focused its attention primarily on bodily health, growing evidence supports the benefits of physical activity on brain health (Ratey & Hagerman, 2008). Physical activity is important and many adolescents are not meeting the recommendation, therefore, it is important to explore the adolescent perceptions to understand which factors influence physical activity participation. The significance of this study is to gain a better understanding of adolescent perceptions to explain the role physical activity plays on academic achievement. The intent is to provide additional insight into improving educational and community programs and policies to increase physical activity among adolescents.

A two-phase explanatory mixed methods design was used. In the first quantitative phase, descriptive statistics, correlations, and two-way ANOVAs were conducted. Results from the study of 208 secondary adolescents from a Midwestern setting indicated that physical activity does not have a significant relationship with academic achievement. However, two-way ANOVA results did provide support for the existence of differences in ecological factors influencing physical activity and academic achievement.

In the second qualitative phase, extreme case sampling was used to select participants for focus group interviews. Analysis of the third research question did reveal substantive differences in perceptions of physical activity and academic achievement between each of the four extreme groups. Themes included: enjoyment, motivation, self-efficacy, perceived feelings, health, social influences, support, environment, academics, and barriers.

A connection of the quantitative and qualitative results found social influences, self-efficacy, support, environment, academics, and motivation the greatest influences statistically and substantively on physical activity influences. The fourth analysis suggested more students feel there is a relationship between physical activity and academic achievement. The fifth analysis provides suggestions for adolescents, parents, schools and the community how to increase physical activity participation among adolescents.

Advisor: Ronald Bonnstetter