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838. Physical Activity and Global Self-worth in a Longitudinal Study of Children

Research Article
Reddon, Hudson; Meyre, David; Cairney, John
July 2017

Commentary by Lisa Rooke, GlobalPANet Executive, National Heart Foundation of Australia

Physical activity participation has been associated with both physical and mental benefits for children and adolescents. Studies have analysed the longer-term relationships between physical activity and self-worth but with inconsistent results. The authors of this study investigated how physical health measures influence the relationship between physical activity and self-worth over time. Self-worth was described as the average general satisfaction with oneself across physical, social, and intellectual domains.

The authors analysed whether the association between physical activity and self-worth would remain constant over time, and whether sex had an influence on this relationship. They also investigated whether changes in body composition and fitness level would mediate (influence) the relationship between physical activity and self-worth. Previous studies had analysed the relationship between physical activity and concept of self, though some were limited by short data collection period.

Data came from the Physical Health Activity Study Team (PHAST), a prospective cohort of children aged nine to ten years from the Toronto public school system in Canada. With 2278 children at baseline, there were eight follow-up contacts over a four-year study period. Global Self-Worth (GSW) was estimated using linear mixed-effects models over follow-up. Measures of physical health investigated included sedentary behaviour, body composition, and aerobic fitness. Rather than being used to categorise participants against overweight/obesity guidelines, Body Mass Index (BMI) was analysed as a quantitative measure.

Results found that both aerobic fitness and BMI appeared to mediate the association between physical activity and GSW. BMI was inversely related to GSW, with aerobic fitness positively related to GSW. Sedentary behaviour was not significantly related to GSW. Increased levels of physical activity were related to greater GSW, and this relationship did not vary significantly over time or between boys and girls.

In summary, this study found evidence of a relationship between physical activity and greater GSW. The relationship was mediated by BMI and aerobic fitness. These findings add to the evidence base to support the mental health benefits of physical activity in children.

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