2007 Grant Recipient: Physical fitness and its relation to mood, body image, self-concept, social pressures and internalization, teaching and weight bias in children

Trent Petrie, Christy Greenleaf, Jordan Hamson, & Scott Martin, University of North Texas

I.  Research Project Overview

The purpose of this project was to investigate the physical fitness levels and psychological health of children and adolescents participating in a summer activity program. Specifically, we wanted to examine the relationship between fitness levels (e.g., aerobic capacity, muscular strength and endurance) as measured through an objective fitness test and self-reported physical self-concept (e.g., strength, endurance, flexibility), and various indices of psychological health (e.g., esteem, body image).

II.  Participants and Method

In this study, 65 boys (Mage = 10.95 years, SD = 0.95; Mbmi = 19.13 kg/m2, SD = 3.18; 75% were Caucasian) and 13 girls (Mage = 10.56 years, SD = 0.52; Mbmi = 19.35 kg/m2, SD = 3.45; 71% were Caucasian) participated. The children were part of a day-long summer activity camp held at the Plano Sport Authority in Plano, TX. Data were collected on two separate occasions, once in early June 2007 and one in August 2007, though only two children were present at the summer camp on each testing date. Parents of children age 10 and older provided written consent; children provided written assent.

During the morning session, all boys and girls in the camp (as part of the camp’s daily activity) participated in the following FITNESSGRAM® activities: PACER, curl-up, push-up, trunk lift, sit and reach, and weight/height (for BMI). After lunch, they completed a survey that contained measures of body image, self concept, and mood.

Parents received summary printouts for each participating child. In addition, the raw fitness test scores were translated into one of two levels:  Needs Improvement (NI – did not reach the criterion referenced level of performance) or Healthy Fitness Zone (HFZ – met the criterion referenced level of fitness)

III.  Results

Fitness Levels Based on FITNESSGRAM test

 

Boys

Girls

FITNESSGRAM
Test

NI (%)

HFZ (%)

NI (%)

HFZ (%)

PACER

55

45

27

73

Curl-up

19

81

29

71

Push-up

33

67

33

67

Trunk Lift

40

60

33

67

Sit and Reach

25

75

31

69

BMI

26

74

19

81

In HFZ On All 6 Tests

80

20

92

8

Fitness and Physical Self-Concept

The boys and girls were combined into two fitness groups:  HFZ vs. Non-HFZ.  These two groups were then compared on their self-reported physical self-concept (endurance, strength, and flexibility). The one-way MANOVA (HFZ vs NotHFZ) was significant (p < .005) as was the ANOVA for the endurance subscale of the Physical Self Description Questionnaire (p < .001). The boys and girls who achieved the HFZ evaluated themselves as being more aerobically fit than those who did not achieve the HFZ; there were no differences between the two groups on self-reported strength or flexibility.

Fitness and Psychological Health

Three one-way MANVOAs were computed to compare the HFZ and nonHFZ groups.  In the first MANOVA, fitness level was unrelated to general self-esteem, happiness and confidence (p = .32). In the second MANOVA, fitness level was unrelated to their feelings of anger, sadness, anxiety, and worthlessness (p = .10). In the third MANOVA, fitness level was unrelated to the children’s perception of themselves as fat and their satisfaction with their bodies (p = .34). Contrary to expectations, fitness level was unrelated to the three different measures of psychological health (positive mood and esteem; negative mood; and body image).

IV.  Conclusions

  1. As proposed, we conducted fitness testing (using the FITNESSGRAM) within a summer activity program during two days (one in June and one in August, 2007).
  2. As part of the summer activity program, parents of child were provided with a summary of the child’s fitness test scores, including recommendations for how to be more active and physically fit.
  3. Although the majority of the children (> 60%) achieved the HFZ in each of the individual tests, very few boys and girls were considered in the HFZ when the TEA’s guidelines were used.
  4. Fitness level was related to their perception of themselves as aerobically fit, though unrelated to strength and flexibility.
  5. Fitness level was unrelated to the various measures of psychological health used in this study.

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