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Physical Activity Levels and Changes in Health-Related Fitness in Residential Summer Camp Counselors

Zachary Wahl-Alexander, Tim Brusseau, Ryan Burns

Abstract


of the 21st century. This has been a rapidly increasing epidemic in the United States, as rates in youth aged 16 to 19 has tripled, and the percentage of obese adults has doubled since 1970. A main contributing factor to this widespread concern is the general sedentary nature of adolescents and adults. While these statistics are alarming, there have been various diverse attempts to target 16- to 19-year-old teenagers to improve various fitness markers and physical activity. As counselors at residential summer camp are generally in this age range, an exploration of this population is warranted. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine camp counselors’ levels of physical activity and health-related fitness changes while working at a residential summer camp.

This study was conducted at Basin Mill Camp (BMC), a residential (i.e., overnight) summer camp in the Northeast United States. The camp is home to over 500 male and female campers and 125 camp counselors for 51 consecutive days. Twenty-one (11 male; 10 female) camp counselors, aged 18-25 (M age = 21.3) were randomly selected from the pool of 125 who worked at BMC. Health-related fitness assessments included, body mass index, PACER, push-up, dynamic curl up, and the sit and reach. Physical activity was evaluated by using YAMAX DigiWalker SW 701 pedometers for a total of 37 days while in camp. There were median differences at pretest between sexes on PACER (median difference = 28.5 laps, p < 0.001), pushups (median difference = 17.5 reps, p < 0.001) and average step counts (median difference = 3,264 steps, p = 0.015), with males scoring higher than females. Across all observed health-related fitness tests, there were statistical median improvements in scores, characterized by large effect sizes. 

Residential summer camps represent a new setting where adults can be exposed to an environment that is conducive to engaging in high levels of physical activity. The findings of this study indicate that over the course of the summer, on average, camp counselors took 19,759 steps per day. Throughout the summer, these participants saw significant improvements to their cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength, and flexibility in addition to a reduction in BMI. Based on the authors’ knowledge, this study is the first to demonstrate the impact working at a residential summer camp can have on an individual’s health-related fitness markers, further substantiating the positive impact this setting can have on young adults. 

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Keywords


Physical activity; young adults; health-related fitness; summer camp; camp counselors; obesity

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18666/JPRA-2019-9702

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