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Theses Doctoral

Effects of a Physical Activity-themed Reality Show Concept on Physical Activity Behavioral Intentions among Potential Viewers

Gillis, Mary Elizabeth

Physical inactivity is an important public health concern. Strong evidence exists linking insufficient physical activity (PA) with an increased risk of many adverse health conditions, including major non-communicable diseases such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and breast and colon cancers—all of which can drastically reduce one’s life expectancy. The media holds great potential to encourage positive health behaviors among the broader community. However, evidence to support traditional mass media campaign approaches to PA promotion remains inconclusive, with most televisionbased campaigns falling short of achieving the PA changes they were designed to promote. Researching alternative methods of delivering PA messages could improve the efficacy of television-based health promotion efforts. Reality television presents one such alternative. This dissertation consists of a systematic literature and two separate, but related, studies. The first study examined the associations between individual characteristics, health-related behaviors, impressions of a PA-themed reality television show concept, and intentions to engage in active transportation (AT) using a randomized two-group (independent) post-test pre-experimental design. Results showed that age, race, and education were significantly associated with impressions. Mild and moderate intensity exercise was significantly associated with behavioral intentions, while impressions of the show explained 19% of the variance in behavioral intentions. There was a statistically significant difference between TV show conditions with those exposed to the AT concept reporting higher AT behavioral intentions. The second study assessed the show concept in formative research and—in addition—examined the associations between individual characteristics, health-related behaviors, impressions of a PA-themed reality television show concept, and intentions to engage in active transportation (AT) using a non-randomized two-group (independent) post-test pre-experimental design as well as in-person, semi-structured interviews. Those exposed to the AT show concept showed higher behavioral intentions for AT, and there was a significant positive correlation between impressions and behavioral intentions in the AT show group. Semi-structured interview data indicated that a majority of research participants had positive impressions toward the PA-themed reality show concept and the show’s characters. However, the visual and design components as well as clarity of the show concept need improvement. These two studies demonstrate the acceptability of the potential effectiveness of a PA-themed reality show concept for conveying active transportation-related messages to viewers. Both studies showed that a PA-themed reality show concept positively influenced PA behavioral intentions specific to AT among those who watched it and impressions of the show as a correlate to behavioral intentions, thus confirming that innovative reality programming can be used to entertain viewers and potentially inspire positive health behaviors.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Biobehavioral Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Garber, Carol Ewing
Degree
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 5, 2018
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