Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


STEM Education & Professional Studies


Instructional Design & Technology

Committee Director

Philip A. Reed

Committee Director

Ginger S. Watson

Committee Member

Robert Spina


Currently, childhood obesity is the largest health threat facing youth in the United States. The majority of youth fail to meet the minimum recommended daily physical activity requirements set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Poor physical fitness levels and nutritional habits are also prevalent in today's youth. Schools have been identified as playing a crucial role in providing students with the knowledge and skills needed to adopt and maintain healthy behaviors and attitudes. School-based Health and Physical Education (HPE) programs, focused on promoting physical activity, fitness, and nutrition, have been shown to be an effective environment for students to be physically active and to acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to adopt and sustain a healthy lifestyle.

The purpose of this descriptive study was to investigate the extent to which supplementation of an elementary school Health and Physical Education program with the Five for Life activity-based curricula program affected students' health-related fitness levels, knowledge of fitness and nutrition concepts and attitudes towards physical education, and overall health and wellness. The Five for Life program was adopted in 2009 by a large, affluent, urban school district in the Southeastern U.S. as part of the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) grant. For the purposes of the implementation across the school district, the elementary schools were clustered into three cohorts consisting of 18, 15, and 19 elementary schools, respectively.

This research study utilized post hoc Five for Life program data. The design of this study allowed the researcher to evaluate the effect of the program across four study variables. The Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run (PACER) test, part of the statewide FITNESSGRAM testing, was used to assess cardiorespiratory endurance levels while three-day Physical Activity Recall (3DPAR) logs were utilized to evaluate physical activity levels at base, heart health, and maximum intensity levels. Pre/post assessments were employed to measure student knowledge of fitness and nutrition and an attitudinal survey assessed students' health-related attitudes as well as their attitudes towards their health and physical education (HPE) class. Data used in the analysis of cardiorespiratory endurance and knowledge was comprised of 4th grade students (n=1,179) enrolled in Cohort I schools. The survey data consisted of the same group of Cohort I 4 th grade students (n=1,827). The physical activity data was collected from 5th grade students across all three cohorts during year one of program implementation; Cohort I (n=1,552) was collected during the 2009-10 academic year, Cohort II (n=1,621) during the 2010-11 academic year, and Cohort III (n=1,640) during the 2011-12 academic year.

The analysis utilized a three-level Hierarchical Linear model to estimate the effects of the Five for Life curricula program on student outcomes as well as the impact of student-level covariates (i.e. age and gender) and school-level covariates (i.e. schoolSES) on student growth trajectories. Results from the study showed significant improvements in 4th grade students' cardiorespiratory endurance levels, when controlling for gender, age, and school socioeconomic status (SES). Students were found to significantly improve their scores on both the "Five for Life 4-5" and "Food for Energy and Health K-5" assessments. Contrary to the literature, student physical activity levels were not found to be significantly increased in any of the three Cohorts during the first year of program implementation. While the results showed no significant changes in attitudes as a result of participating in the Five for Life program, the students' overall attitudes were observed to be highly positive prior to program implementation thus leaving little room for attitudinal change.

Gender was consistently found to be a significant predictor of student performance, primarily at pre-assessment, with females showing lower levels of performance across all variables with the exception of knowledge of fitness and nutrition. Improvements were observed at post-assessment thus providing evidence that the gap between females and males may have been mediated by participation in the program. While the analysis showed age and school-SES to be significant predictors of Cohort III students' physical activity, the influence was minimal. The results also showed schoolSES to slightly predict students' knowledge of the five components of fitness and their attitudes towards learning in health and physical education. However, the observed change in both scores was miniscule and not considered meaningful.


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