Health and Wellness Behaviors of Doctor of Physical Therapy Students
Molly Barnes, SPT; Ashton Day, SPT; Alex Drobnic, SPT; Allison Pearson, SPT
Faculty Mentors: Christina Wisdom, PT, DPT, OCS, CLT
Purpose/Hypothesis: Health is a dynamic process because it changes throughout one’s life circumstances. Research suggests that health behaviors may decrease due to demands of a physical therapy (PT) program curriculum. The purpose of our study was to determine the health and wellness patterns and beliefs for current Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students. Additionally, barriers to health and wellness behaviors were explored.
Number of Subjects: Subjects included 1966 DPT students.
Materials/Methods: An email invitation to participate in the online survey was sent to the department chairs of all CAPTE accredited DPT programs in the United States. They were asked to forward the email to DPT students. Posts were made on the Rockhurst Facebook and Twitter pages encouraging participation. Outside of demographic data, the survey asked about: exercise, sleep, eating habits, barriers to healthy habits, emotional health, and the respondent’s opinion of a PT’s role in modeling healthy behaviors. Descriptive statistics were calculated in Excel.
Results: The average age of respondents was 24.7 years, with 73.4% being female and 26.6% male. The average BMI was 24.1 kg/m2. The respondents represented all geographic regions and years of DPT school. Ninety-nine percent of respondents reported PTs should practice what they preach.
Overall, the results indicated physical therapist students are practicing healthy habits, however there are several areas in which students are exhibiting unhealthy behaviors, such as:
33.8% had a BMI of 25 kg/m2 or greater (overweight)
61.4% reported exercising less than the recommended 150 minutes of aerobic exercise/week
38.8% reported obtaining, on average, less than the minimally recommended 7 hours of sleep on class nights
91.5% reported their stress has increased since beginning DPT school
45.4% reported they could not cope with all the things they had to do in the last month
91.8% do not eat the recommended amount of fruits, and 82.8% do not eat the recommended amount of vegetables
Time was reported by 96% and 89% as being the biggest barrier to being physically active and eating healthy, respectively.
Conclusions: DPT students are demonstrating multiple healthy behaviors and believe PTs should be role models. However, physical and psychological unhealthy behaviors were reported. A substantial number of students may not be the best role models, as they are not meeting physical activity, nutrition, and sleep guidelines. These behaviors may also impact students’ ability to learn. Time is reported as the largest barrier to healthy habits.
Clinical Relevance: While results suggest that physical therapist students are practicing healthy habits, there are multiple unhealthy behaviors that may impact students’ ability to learn and be role models in the clinic.