If you suddenly started or stopped exercising over the last six months, you may not be alone.
Gonzaga graduate student Gabriella Zinc and professor Karen Rickel are working in tandem researching students’ motivation and physical activity during the pandemic.
Using a survey format, the two researchers are hoping to gather information that could inform physical education programming, the training and classes provided for physical education teachers and provide valuable information on the health of college students and the GU community as a whole.
The two of them hope that the research will provide some insight into what motivates us. The two directly point to the possibility of this insight being used to tweak educational practices for kinesiology students.
“That will help us teach our teachers how to reach for that motivation," Rickel said, the department chair of sport and physical education as well as the director of GU's masters’ program in sports administration, on potential uses for results.
The survey, which already has over 150 results in three weeks contains questions centering around themes of social, mental, personal and other motivators for exercise. Zinc and Rickel sent out their survey to the GU community over Morning Mail, and it is still open for GU community members to participate in.
Zinc and Rickel are expecting their research to show an increase in activity among participants during the pandemic, citing their own experiences as well as anecdotal accounts of sold-out bike shops and articles being written about a new wave of outdoor activity. However, implications of their findings could be much more widespread than the availability of cycling equipment.
Motivation and physical activity have long been a interest of Rickel’s as she previously has done an extremely similar study using the same methods. The difference with this research though in addition to minor changes in questioning, is that prior to response, most individuals have been staying in their homes due to COVID-19.
In addition to curriculum and programming, Zinc and Rickel often cite physical activity as an indicator of larger health trends, both physical and otherwise.
“It’s about what is impacting our wellness," Rickel said. “How are you taking care of yourself? To me that very much matters. Whether that’s your physical wellness, your mental wellness, your social wellness. So, if we’re addressing that and zooming in on how people are coping, how they’re getting through this pandemic, I find that incredibly important.”
The interest in mental health and overall health of the GU community appears to be a focal point of the importance of this research.
“A lot of people rely on activity to cope with difficulties in their life," Zinc said. “So, if they lack motivation to use these positive coping mechanisms, then are there other factors in their life that are not being taken care of as well? It’s an overall mental health thing.”
Zinc, who is in her third year of getting her master's degree in clinical mental health, started working with Rickel after the pair found a shared interest in the sociology of sports. The two researchers knew they wanted to work together, but weren’t certain of what they wanted to study before the pandemic.
“We just really thought ‘gosh this is so on point for something that really interests both of us,’” Rickel said.
Both Zinc and Rickel had personal experiences with fluctuations in motivation and physical activity during the pandemic. Zinc took up bicycling and accomplished a 100-mile bike ride recently, while Rickel began to walk with her friends, a shift from before when she would only walk alone.
"This is the community that we’ve chosen to be in, you want the healthiest people," Rickel said. "Whatever that means whether its physical or emotional. How can we meet the current needs of our student population? They've chosen our community. So, I think it's important to protect our community."
The survey can be found at https://gonzaga.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_25HKDYGnxtKbZ5z