Biopsychosocial and physical fitness correlates of dietary intent in middle school girls

Scott Martin, University of North Texas, USA

Theme: Exercise and health behaviors

Poster Number: 110

Program ID: POS-2

Presentation: October 4, 2013 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Room: Napoleon


Cardiorespiratory fitness predicts many important health outcomes (e.g., lower body fat, lower depression; Ortega et al., 2008), but it’s relation to restrained eating is less clear. Middle school girls (N = 774) completed measures for dietary intent, pubertal development, social appearance comparisons, sociocultural pressures (i.e., lose weight, gain weight, exercise), internalization, self-esteem, social support from family and from friends, and body satisfaction. Teachers obtained weight and height and had students complete the PACER (Cooper Institute, 2007), an indicator of VO2max, during PE classes. Hierarchical regression revealed that, after controlling for the influences of body mass, pubertal development, SES level, and race, the biopsychosocial and cardiorespiratory measures accounted for 33% of the variance in the girls’ restrained eating, F (14, 759) = 43.48, p < .0001. Full model betas revealed that girls with higher levels of social body comparison (beta = .09), greater internalization of societal beauty ideals (beta = .21), more pressures to lose (beta = .23) or gain (beta = .10) weight, and higher support from friends (beta = .09), had higher scores on dietary intent. Cardiorespiratory fitness (beta = -.09), however, was inversely related such that physically fit girls were less likely to report that they were restricting their caloric intake. These findings indicate that cardiorespiratory fitness is related not only to greater satisfaction with body size/shape, higher self-esteem, and lower levels of depression, but also to how girls approach their food intake. Fit girls may feel better about their bodies, have lower BMIs, and thus feel less need to restrict what they eat. Such an approach to food, one balanced with physical activity and fitness, would be healthier than one based solely on restriction.

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