Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Diana Rancourt, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas Brandon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jack Darkes, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Rita DeBate, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kristen Salomon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brent Small, Ph.D.


compulsive exercise, exercise identity, disordered eating, peer exercise norms


Compulsive exercise (e.g., high exercise frequency combined with the inability to reduce or stop exercising) is associated with a variety of maladaptive outcomes in college students, such as quality of life impairment, body dissatisfaction, and poor physical health outcomes. Recent research suggests that compulsive exercise is highly prevalent among college students and that engagement in compulsive exercise behaviors may increase over the first year of college. Given that college is an important developmental period for establishing behavioral patterns that affect long-term health, developing effective preventative interventions for compulsive exercise among early college students is paramount. Extant cross-sectional work suggests that exercise identity is associated with compulsive exercise behaviors among college students; however, there are no longitudinal investigations of this relationship. Additionally, some research suggests that perceived social norms are associated with exercise behaviors, yet no studies specifically assess compulsive exercise. This study investigated compulsive exercise, exercise identity, peer exercise norms, and eating disorder symptoms among 334 first year college students (50.8% female at Time 4) at four time-points over a nine-month academic year. Contrary to hypotheses, linear growth of compulsive exercise was not observed; however, initial exercise identity and peer exercise norms emerged as significant predictors of change in compulsive exercise. Further, engagement in compulsive exercise was a significant predictor of change in eating disorder symptoms both within each semester and across the first year of college. Findings have implications for the prevention and treatment of maladaptive exercise and disordered eating behaviors.