Do Undergraduate Students Change Their Attitudes to People with Obesity After Following a Healthy Lifestyle Challenge?




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Oxford University Press



Peer reviewed



Objectives To test whether following a healthy lifestyle challenge for 21 days led to a change in student attitudes to people with obesity.

Methods Students on an undergraduate BMedSci (Hons) Medical Science program were invited to take part in a healthy lifestyle challenge, and each of the participants selected one positive change to either their diet or physical activity levels, which they had to follow for 21 days. All challenges were approved by nutritionists to ensure their challenges were risk-free. During this period participants joined a social media group to support each other and discuss their progress. Before and after the 21 days participants were asked to complete a validated questionnaire ‘Attitudes to obese persons’ (Allison et al. 1991) which consists of 20 Likert scale questions, where they indicated how much they agreed or disagreed with each statement. Data were anonymised and analysed using Paired Samples T-Test, with the level of significance set at P < 0.05.

Results Thirty-seven students completed the first questionnaire however only 29 of them (78%) completed the second one. The drop-out rate was due to the second questionnaires being collected after a teaching session which was less well-attended than the first. Despite students reporting that they felt following their challenge made them more empathetic to the struggles that people with obesity may face when trying to lose weight and improve activity levels, their underlying attitudes did not change, and there were no significant differences in their questionnaire answers between before and after their challenge.

Conclusions Taking part in a 21-day healthy lifestyles challenge did not change student attitudes to people with obesity. Developing more empathy did not seem to change underlying attitudes in this cohort, and it may be that such a short period of time is not enough to lead to significant changes.



obesity, healthy lifestyle


Buczak, A., Jin, Y. and Dunford, L. (2020) Do Undergraduate Students Change Their Attitudes to People with Obesity After Following a Healthy Lifestyle Challenge? Current Developments in Nutrition, 4, Issue Supplement 2, P1312


Research Institute

Institute for Allied Health Sciences Research