Authors: Arun Kumar Verma, Girish Singh, Kishor Patwardhan
Background: University students are at risk of losing their focus on maintaining healthy levels of physical activity because of their engagements with curricular and cocurricular activities. In India, the physical activity levels of the adult population have been reported to be declining in the recent years. However, studies focusing on university students pertaining to their physical activity are lacking in the Indian context. Moreover, a question that has not been properly addressed is the following: “do the curricula in higher education promote physical activity?”
Objective: Our paper aims at describing the physical activity levels of the students in a large public-funded central university located in northern India. The study also aims at capturing the student perceptions about the emphasis they receive on leading a
physically active lifestyle during their routine curricular activities.
Methods: This is a cross-sectional descriptive study and uses International Physical Activity Questionnaire—Long Form to record physical activity among 4586 students. Stratified sampling method was used to enroll the students from each stream
(faculty). Out of 30,667 students, about 15% were included from each faculty. The study was conducted between 2016 and 2019. To capture the student perceptions, we used a newly developed 5-item scale.
Results: From a total of 4586 participants in the study, 2828 (61.7%) were male and 1758 (38.3%) were female students. The mean age of our sample was 22.34 (SD 3.12) years. Our results indicate that about 14.5% (n=666) of all students in the study fall
under the “Inactive” category. Furthermore, the perception about the curricular content pertaining to physical activity varied widely between the students of different streams.
Conclusions: Our sample reported a better physical activity pattern in comparison to the reported overall physical activity levels of the adult population of India. Our results also suggest that health-related topics are inadequately represented in many of the
streams of higher education in the university.