Peary studies changes in physical activity strategies in schools during the pandemic

Winning a fellowship award from the Center for Undergraduate Research (CUGR) led to the “defining moment of my undergraduate career,” says Alexandra Peary, a senior nursing student at the University of Maine.

Peary, a Cumberland, Maine native, is passionate about living a healthy lifestyle. She decided to use her fellowship to research how physical activity strategies changed during the COVID-19 pandemic in schools. She specifically focused on schools enrolled in “Let’s Go!” a nationally recognized obesity prevention program created by Maine Health.

“I wanted to look at the school-aged child population because intervening in poor lifestyle habits long before adulthood can ensure children will enter adulthood with strong, healthy habits,” says Peary.

She conducted a secondary analysis of the “Let’s Go!” team’s survey data to examine physical activity strategies during the pandemic and the benefits and barriers of implementation.

“With COVID-19 pandemic restrictions preventing many traditional forms of exercise for children, such as recess and playing with friends, I thought it would be even more important to assess what physical activity implementation strategies were being put forth in Maine, to maintain the health and wellbeing of our students,” she says.

Peary’s CUGR fellowship funded a trip to Washington D.C. to present her research at the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing’s “Creating Healthy Work Environments” conference. Her honors thesis advisor, Dr. Kelley Strout, nominated her to present.

“I was able to discuss my own research, listen to other research being done in both the academic and clinical nursing setting, receive career counseling, and talk to many nurses about their own experiences,” Peary says. “I am so grateful to the Center for Undergraduate Research and Dr. Kelley Strout for making it possible.”

After graduating, Peary plans to pursue a Ph.D. in nursing.

Written by Ali Tobey