Background: Most college students do not adequately participate in enough physical activity (PA) to attain health benefits. A theory-based approach is critical in developing effective interventions to promote PA. The purpose of this study was to examine the utility of the newly proposed multi-theory model (MTM) of health behavior change in predicting initiation and sustenance of PA among college students.

Methods: Using a cross-sectional design, a valid and reliable survey was administered in October 2015 electronically to students enrolled at a large Southern US University. The internal consistency Cronbach alphas of the subscales were acceptable (0.65-0.92). Only those who did not engage in more than 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic PA during the past week were included in this study.

Results: Of the 495 respondents, 190 met the inclusion criteria of which 141 completed the survey. The majority of participants were females (72.3%) and Caucasians (70.9%). Findings of the confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) confirmed construct validity of sub-scales (initiation model: χ2 = 253.92 [df = 143], P < 0.001, CFI = 0.91, RMSEA = 0.07, SRMR = 0.07; sustenance model: χ2= 19.40 [df = 22], P < 0.001, CFI = 1.00, RMSEA = 0.00, SRMR = 0.03). Multivariate regression analysis showed that 26% of the variance in the PA initiation was explained by advantages outweighing disadvantages, behavioral confidence, work status, and changes in physical environment. Additionally, 29.7% of the variance in PA sustenance was explained by emotional transformation, practice for change, and changes in social environment.

Conclusion: Based on this study's findings, MTM appears to be a robust theoretical framework for predicting PA behavior change. Future research directions and development of suitable intervention strategies are discussed.

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Published in Health Promotion Perspectives, v. 6, no. 2, p. 58-65.

© 2016 The Author(s).

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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