Katedra za tjelesnu i zdravstvenu kulturu, 04.06.2014. 11:21



Ph.D. Sanja Ćurković, ¹ Ph.D. Mirna Andrijašević²,

Ph.D. Romana Caput-Jogunica¹, Nenad Zvonarek, prof. ³


¹ Faculty of Agriculture,University of Zagreb,Croatia

² Faculty of Kinesiology,University of Zagreb,Croatia

                   ³ Faculty of Mechanical Engineering,University of Zagreb,Croatia



The aim of this study was to examine the level of physical engagement among university students and to explore possible differences between the students in physical activities by gender and age. An anonymous questionnaire of 48 variables was examined in 1646 students at theUniversityofZagreb, aged between 19 and 27. Data were analyzed by statistical analysis: using descriptive statistics, χ2 analysis, logistic regression and multiple linear regression analysis. The results have shown that the student’s population does not have a satisfactory level of physical activity which influences the preservation of health; it was noted that by maturing, young people are reducing their participation in sports - male students were significantly more active in comparison with female students and, there was no difference in physical activities by their age.

Key words: University students, physical activity, health.



Modern living and working conditions significantly reduced physical activity (King et al., 2002; Saelens et al., 2003), dangerously increasing a number of obese individuals, thus influencing a development of various diseases associated with physical inactivity (Humpel et al. 2002; Van der Wilk and Jensen, 2005; Keating, 2005, Rhodes et al. 2006). Epidemiological studies showed a rapid decline in physical activity among young people aged between 18 and 24 (Kilpatrick et al., 2005, Ćurković, 2010). Research on the topic of physical activity among university students has been increased because of students’ increased sedentary lifestyle. Majority of the research is made up of descriptive studies which reflect students participation in physical activities, changes related to physical activities and their determinants, and is related to intervention programs which promote physical activities among university students (Sparling & Snow, 2002, Nahas et al. 2003; Buckworth & Nigg, 2004). Researches show that between 35% and 70% of the student population (depending on the area of living) have not satisfied level of physical activity recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2003). The researchers found that 84.7% of those who exercised regularly during the study, kept these habits for the following 5-10 years, while 81.3% of those who were not active, remained sedentary in their lifestyle (Sparling and Snow, 2002).
The aim of this study was to examine the level of physical activities among university students and to investigate whether engagement differs in physical activities by student’s gender and age.



The study included a total of 1646 student at the University of Zagreb (745 male and 901 female students), aged between 19 and 27, from different regions in Croatia. An anonymous questionnaire of the 48 variables was used, and that included current involvement in sport, individual preferences according to their physical activities, involvement in sports and recreational activities in the last month and the last seven days. Relative frequencies had to be calculated for each variable to arrive to a descriptive level. χ2 analysis, logistic regression and multiple linear regression analysis were used to determine the difference in physical activities by sex and age.



Table 1. Participation in physical activities 





Never involved in sports


Recreational level


Actively involved in sports




Regional rank


National rank


International rank


member of the national team


Based on the analysis for the whole area of physical activities we can safely say that 8.7% of university students were never involved in sports. The most common reasons for this are: students are not interested in sport and for most it was not possible to participate in desired sports where they grew up. The most participation in the recreational forms of physical activities was riding a bike, running, volleyball, aerobics and dance. Seasonal activities (depending on the season), 22.8% of students engaged in swimming, 15% diving, sledding 15.4%, ice skating 10.7% and 8.3% in skiing. Analysis of active participation in sport has shown that 32.4% of the students were or still are active athletes who participate in competitions of varying quality. Data on the cessation of sports in our study suggest that the initial exit from the sport happens between the ages of 13-14 (3.0%), growing at 9.0% with the ages of 15-16, and by the age of 17 16.2% of young athletes leave sports. Before enrolling into college, 28.2% of current students have dropped from sports activity, which indicates that only 4.2% of students are currently active in sports. The most common reasons for cessation from active sports are: the impossibility to harmonize the school and sports commitments (9.2%), injuries (8.1%) and inadequate training time (6.4%).

Analysis of the involvement in physical activities during the last month showed that 9.3% of students did not participate in any form of physical activity, while 70.5% were engaged in some physical activities between 2-12 times a month. Only 20.2% of those students were active at the recommended level (at least three times a week at a minimum of 30 minutes). Weekly engagement gives similar results, provided that the increased number of students in that period did any part in any form of physical activity (17.7%).
Differences by gender analysis showed that a higher number of female students never did sports and to were less active in sports (20.7% male compared to 11.4% female) while female students were more engaged in recreational activities (37.31% female and 21.5% male). Male students are much more involved in the following physical activities: soccer (13.65% versus 2.12%), basketball (8.90% versus 3.88%) and table tennis (8.73% versus 4.53%) and female students in riding a bike (23.44% versus 13.39%), rollerblading (11.03% versus 3.2%), volleyball (9.51% versus 4.40%), dance (17.08% vs. 2 , 84%), aerobics (16.09% versus 1.88%) and badminton (8.72% versus 3.02%). Results in physical activities such as running, hiking, tennis, rowing, scuba diving, diving, sailing and water skiing show that, a significantly higher number of girls had never participated in these activities. Male students are involved in sports at an earlier age (between 7 and 9 years old), do more sports, and many of them leave sports between the ages of 15 and 17.

Table 2. Active participation in sport

Active participation in sport








        M  %

 F  %



Earlier involvement in sport





Weekly commitment: more than three times





Daily  workout 1-2 hours





Out of sports between the 15th and 17th year





In addition to χ2 analysis, logistic regression analysis with gender as the criteria indicator variable (men were assigned value 1) and the physical activities as predictors were performed. The model with the predictor was significantly better than the initial model with the constant (3,N =1646)=105.311,p

Table3, 4. Model with and without predictor






Model 1

















-2 Log likelihood

Cox & Snell R2

Nagelkerke R2








Table 5 shows regression coefficients (B) with standard error and statistical significance (Wald), as well as changes in the ratio of the likelihood that the respondent was male (OR).

Table 5. Logistic regression analysis of gender differences and sporting activities correlation.




St. pog.





Model 1a
































According to the Wald’s criterion, two predictors were associated with respondent’s gender: current activity and weekly activity. From the signs of regression coefficients (B) and changes in the ratio of the likelihood that the respondent was male (OR), it can be concluded that students had significantly higher scores in the variables of the current activity and weekly activity and, an increase of 52.2 % in the variable of current activity to the increase of 16.7% in the variable of the weekly activity, thus increasing the probability that the respondent is male. Whereas, the increase of the value in the monthly activity variable has no independent, statistically significant contributing factor for correct classification of subjects according to gender. Given the above, we may conclude that the current activity alone is the best predictor of genders. In addition, a multiple linear regression analysis was conducted to determine the age difference, with the age of subjects as the main criterion (expressed in years of life; higher score indicates the greater age of the respondents), and for the current sports activities we used predictor variables (higher score represents respondents that are more active in sports). Based on this analysis it was shown that the age was not significantly associated with sports activity (R2 = .004, F (3.1646) = 2.176, p> .05). According to the results shown in the Table 30, not a single measure of sports activity could be a significant predictor of age.

Table 6. Regression analysis of age and sports activities; coefficients and significance of predictors



Not standardized coefficients


Standardized coefficients        






     Standard error

































Discussion and conclusions

The results of this study indicate that the students’ current engagements in sports activities are not satisfactory. From the total number of students in this survey 20.2% were active at the recommended level (at least 3 times a week at a minimum of 30 minutes) which is consistent with previous research, indicating high percentages of inactivity or low activity in this age group throughout the world (Sparling and Snow, 2002, Nahas et al., 2003; Buckworth and Nigg, 2004, Haase et al., 2004, Keating et al., 2005; Reed, 2007). DeWahla and associates’ (2005) research showed a high presence of physically inactive students, particularly female students, which has been proven in this research. Similar to this study, Nelson and associates’ (2007) research indicates a large drop out of the sport during high school. Gender differences were demonstrated by other researches. Buckwort and Nig (2004), Miller and colleagues (2005) suggest that gender is one of the better predictors when it comes to participation in sports. Everything that is linked to active participation in sports is also associated with male students, which is confirmed by other researchers - Huang et al (2003) and Miller (2005). One of the reasons why men are more persistent in the sport could be friends – as a main motivation factor for men, it is important for them to belong to a group (Reed, 2007). For participation in recreational activities literature provides inconsistent results. While some argue that male students are much more involved in recreational physical activities, others deny it. The results of this study show that female students (37.3%) in comparison with male students (21.5%) are more inclined towards forms of recreational activities. Stone and colleagues (2002) and Buckwort and Nigg, (2004) suggest that male students prefer team sports and heavy duty work, while female students are more interested in programs such as aerobics, dance, yoga, cycling, which is in accordance with this research. Differences analysis in this study in physical activities by age showed no significant statistical differences, which is not in accordance with earlier investigations. Specifically, researches by Garman (2004), and Read and Phillips (2005) learned that younger students are more active than their older counterparts. These facts suggest the importance of motivating young people to persevere in physical activity programs. The reasons for this are numerous. On one hand, concern for health and maintenance of physical and mental fitness, improvement of satisfaction and self-esteem; on the other hand, prevention of weight gain and various diseases that occur as a result of physical inactivity combined with poor eating habits. Given that students are exposed to numerous social conditions and codes of conduct, institutions for higher education have a special environment in which it is possible to promote active lifestyle through physical activity and affect the consciousness of a large number of students. The data suggests a need for the research into areas of motivation to participate in physical activities, so that researchers could develop better programs and thus motivate students to engage in more physical activities.


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