College students’ perceptions of a caring climate in group physical activity classes

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Study aim: Research suggests that physical activity rates decline sharply after high school. The pattern of activity or inactivity during college tends to persist into adulthood. A critical need exists for examination of strategies to engage college-age students in physical activity habits. One way to do this is through physical activity courses offered in colleges. This study examines the relationship between perceptions of a caring psychological climate and group connectedness, enjoyment, and attitudes toward classmates and the instructor in group physical activity courses. Material and methods: Participants were 174 students (107 males and 67 females; Mage = 21.71) enrolled in exercise, martial arts, and sports courses at a large university in the Mountain West. Results: Perceptions of a caring climate were significantly related to enhanced feelings of group connectedness, heightened enjoyment, and more positive attitudes toward classmates and instructor. Discussion: These findings suggest that a strategy to foster engagement in physical activity courses on campus is to train instructors to value, support, and welcome students.

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