Increasing Physical Activity and Enjoyment Through Goal-Setting at Summer Camp


  • Cait Wilson University of Utah
  • Jim Sibthorp University of Utah
  • Timothy A. Brusseau University of Utah



Physical activity, recreation, youth programs, goal-setting, pedometry


Children’s physical activity levels decrease in the summer months, which explains the interest in out-of-school programs that maintain and increase physical activity (Carrel, Clark, Peterson, Eickhoff, & Allen, 2007). Park and recreation professionals have long understood their contributions to physical activity efforts (Mowen, Trauntvein, Graefe, & Son, 2012). Physical activity is inherent in many recreation programs and commonly embedded in program and facility designs, though efforts to leverage these inherent strengths are often less intentional. In school and work contexts, programs that use goal-setting with pedometers have been linked to increasing physical activity levels (Kang, Marshall, Barreira, & Lee, 2009). However, for such a program to work in a recreation context, it would need to be effective at boosting physical activity and remain enjoyable for participants (Trew, Kremer, Gallagher, Scully, & Ogle, 1997). The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of three different goal-setting programs with pedometers on children’s physical activity and enjoyment in a day camp setting. The goal-setting programs differed each week; campers set individual goals, small group goals, and then a camp-wide goal. A secondary aim was to assess if differences in step counts and enjoyment of physical activity existed for male/female and older/younger campers. Participants included 88 children between the ages of 5 and 11 (mean age was 7.8 ± 1.6 years). Physical activity and enjoyment measures were collected at baseline and three subsequent weeks during the goal-setting programs. There were significant increases in step counts when comparing the baseline to individual goal-setting (? = 776 steps, p = 0.003, d = 0.38) and for camp-wide goal-setting (? = 1547 steps, p < 0.001, d = 0.78), and significant increases in enjoyment compared to baseline for group goal-setting (? = .91 enjoyment, p = 0.001, d = 0.52) and for camp-wide goal-setting (? = .66 enjoyment, p = 0.003, d = 0.40). Boys were more physically active than girls (p = .006, d = 0.50) and on average took 796 more steps. Also, older campers enjoyed physical activity less; the correlation between age and enjoyment was r = -.317 (p = .003). These data illustrate that a goal-setting pedometer-based program functioning at a broader level was most effective at increasing both physical activity and participants’ enjoyment of physical activity. Concerted efforts by recreation programmers may be necessary to encourage physical activity that is enjoyable among girls and older children. 

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Author Biographies

Cait Wilson, University of Utah

Department of Health, Kinesiology, and Recreation

Parks, Recreation, and Tourism

Doctoral Candidate

Jim Sibthorp, University of Utah

Department of Health, Kinesiology, and Recreation

Parks, Recreation, and Tourism


Timothy A. Brusseau, University of Utah

Department of Health, Kinesiology, and Recreation


Assistant Professor






Regular Papers