A better understanding of adolescents’ intentions to change their lifestyle behaviours is needed in building more effective health promotion strategies targeting this age group. SALSA (Students As LifeStyle Activists) is a unique peer-educational program where trained volunteer Year 10 students educate and motivate Year 8 students about healthy active living. This study reports on adolescents’ eating, physical activity and recreational screen-time behaviours, and examines their intentions around these behaviours, prior to participation in the SALSA program.
Students completed a brief online questionnaire which assessed compliance with Australian recommendations for eating breakfast, fruit and vegetable intake, physical activity and recreational screen-time. The questionnaire also assessed how frequently (in the next month) students planned to engage in these behaviours.
In total, 1,120 (52% girls) Year 8 students and 213 (69% girls) Year 10 students participated. The proportion of students [from Year 8 and Year 10 respectively] who complied with the following recommendations was: eat breakfast daily [52%; 54%]; consume ≥ 2 fruit serves daily [51%; 56%]; consume ≥ 5 vegetable serves daily [12%; 8%]; accumulate ≥ 60 minutes of moderate-vigorous physical activity daily [19%; 10%] and limit recreational screen-time to ≤ 2 hours daily [54%; 44%].
In comparison, the proportion of students [from Year 8 and Year 10 respectively] who planned to meet the same recommendations during the next month was: eating breakfast daily [65%; 72%], fruit serves [65%; 73%], vegetable serves [18%; 16%] and physical activity [70%; 75%]. One-third of Year 8 students and 38% of Year 10 students planned to engage in less recreational screen-time.
Recommendations for breakfast eating, fruit intake and recreational screen-time were met by approximately one in two adolescents. This ratio was much lower for vegetable intake and physical activity recommendations. Health promotion strategies targeting physical activity, over vegetable intake, would better align with adolescents’ behavioural intentions.