Purpose: To increase our understanding of factors that may influence the dietary and physical activity practices of adolescents attending an alternative high school (AHS). Methods: Seventy students (36 girls, 34 boys) from urban and suburban AHSs in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area participated in 7 focus groups to discuss their perceptions and opinions about factors that influence their eating and physical activity behaviors and to offer suggestions regarding school-based strategies to support and to promote healthy physical activity and eating practices among students. Mixed-gender groups were facilitated by a trained moderator by using a set of standardized questions to guide the 45- to 60-minute discussions. Focus groups were audiotaped, transcribed, and analyzed using a 3-step process for qualitative analysis. Results: Time, cost, availability, and convenience were identified as key factors that influenced students' food choices and the choice to be active physically. Access to healthy foods and physical activity was problematic, especially at school. Students also reported that social support from their friends, family, and teachers, and role-modeling behaviors of adults enhanced their likelihood of eating healthy foods and being active. Conclusions: Study findings suggest that programs that target social-environmental factors that include norms, role models, social support, and opportunities to practice a health behavior have the potential to affect positively the dietary and physical activity practices of teenagers attending an AHS. Interventions that aim to increase opportunities at school to practice healthy eating and physical activity may be effective, especially in promoting and supporting healthy behavior change among students.
- Alternative high schools
- Physical activity