Predicting intentions to be physically active among volunteer firefighters in rural North Carolina: a study utilizing a modified theory of planned behavior

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University of Alabama Libraries

Background: In 2015, the United States Fire Association (USFA) reported 51% of firefighter deaths were from sudden cardiac incidents. Sudden cardiac death has consistently accounted for the largest share of on-duty firefighter deaths since the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) began gathering firefighter health data in 1977 (USFA, 2015a). Physical activity is a protective factor against cardiovascular disease, but most firefighters do not meet recommended levels of physical activity (Baur, Christophi, Cook & Kales, 2012a). The theory of planned behavior (TPB) offers suggestions for why people do or do not engage in desirable behaviors, such as physical activity, and proposes that the primary determinant for behavior is the intention to perform the behavior (Glanz & Bishop, 2010). This study used the TPB, modified to include past behavior and perceived risk, in an attempt to understand firefighters’ intentions to be physically active. Methods: This study used cross-sectional, descriptive, and predictive correlational research designs using survey methodology (n=123). Findings: Results from logistic regression analyses found that TPB constructs of attitudes, past physical activity behavior, and perceived behavioral control (PBC) were significantly related (p<.05) to intentions to be physically active among volunteer firefighters in rural North Carolina. Past moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise was most strongly related to intentions to be physically active, explaining 35% of the variance. No other factors significantly influenced intentions to be physically active. Body mass index (BMI) of the firefighters classified 35.9% as overweight and 44.4% as obese. Volunteer firefighters in this study did not perceive themselves at a high risk of heart disease, even though statistically 51% of firefighter deaths are from cardiac incidents (Haynes & Stein, 2016). Implications: Data obtained from a second examination should be used to further validate the reliability of the modifications to the TPB and past physical activity scales. The addition of perceived risk to the TPB added little to our understanding of intentions to be physically active, but the relationships among all these variables should be explored more fully by quantitative and qualitative methods. Findings from this study have implications for future intervention development aimed at targeting preventive efforts for volunteer firefighter populations.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Health education, Health sciences