Babkes Stellino, Megan

Committee Member

Brustad, Robert

Committee Member

Coakley, Jay

Committee Member

Brittain, Danielle


Sport and Exercise Science


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created



141 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


Emerging adulthood is a critical developmental life stage for individuals to establish healthy behaviors that enhance wellbeing, including quality relationships and physical activity (PA) engagement. Institutions of higher education are positioned to influence and support the development of these developmental tasks in emerging adults enrolled on their respective campuses. The purpose of this mixed methods study was to explore experiences of belonging, basic psychological need satisfaction (BNS) in PAbased social relationships, and motives to participate in a socially structured PA program among emerging adults on a university campus. Participants: University students who participated in the Fitness Buddies (FB) program (n=10), along with student interns and volunteers that served as program peer session leaders (n=7) over one academic semester. Participants (N=17) ranged in age from 18-31 years (M=23.29, SD= 4.33). Measures: MPAM-R, BNSR, situational affect emoji check-ins/check-outs, narrative interviews and programmatic data. Results: The majority of participants signed up for the program to improve their health and fitness, and that remained the primary motive of the majority of participants at the conclusion of the semester, along with competence and enjoyment. A positive PA session effect was demonstrated in the sample’s cumulative reduction of stress, anxiety and tiredness, and increase in happiness, confidence, energy, and social connection. Narratives themes from the paired interview data illuminated the ways the FB program provided participants access to support and resources to experience BNS through FB relationships, while also, anecdotally, improving their situational affect, selfconfidence, motivation to be consistently physically active, overall mental health, and engagement with academic coursework. Narrative themes also included experiences of true belonging through an environment that supported trust building practices of reliability, non-judgment and generosity. Peed-led, socially structured PA programs on university campuses appear to improve health and wellbeing and support healthy development of emerging adults. The positive experiences of FB participants offer a useful model for ways in which the benefits of social connection through PA could be translated outside of the traditional fitness and recreation center and be brought into spaces like higher education classrooms, to create supportive, active, and healthier learning communities. Programs on college and university campuses that foster belonging and psychological wellbeing, have powerful potential to be a driving force for changing the health and wellbeing of not only the current, but also the next generation of emerging adults.

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