Health-Related Fitness Knowledge and Physical Activity of High School Students

By Thompson, Angela; Harmon, James C. | Physical Educator, Winter 2012 | Go to article overview
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Health-Related Fitness Knowledge and Physical Activity of High School Students

Thompson, Angela, Harmon, James C., Physical Educator


The purpose of this study was to determine if health-related fitness (HRF) knowledge is related to self-reported physical activity (PA) of high school students. Students (N=165) enrolled in physical education from two schools in the Southwestern U.S participated. A 100-point HRF knowledge test was assembled, focusing on the HRF concepts of cardiovascular endurance, muscular-fitness, body-composition, and flexibility, using the question bank from the Fitness-for-Life Teachers CD-ROM. Physical activity was assessed using the Physical Activity Questionnaire for Adolescents (PAQ-A). The PAQ-A includes eight items scored on a five-point scale. The total activity score is the calculated mean of the eight items. One-way ANOVAs reported no significant difference by gender on HRF tests and PAQ-A scores. A Pearson correlation coefficient was generated to examine the strength of relationship between HRF test and PA Q-A scores. There was a moderate positive correlation between HRF test and PAQ-A scores (r(168) = .438, p < .001) This means that those who scored higher on the HRF test also tended to report being more physically active. As a secondary analysis students who reported scores rounding to 1-2 on the PAQ-A were categorized as low active (n = 50), scores rounding to 3 as moderately active (n = 73), and scores rounding to 4-5 as high active (n = 44). One-way ANOVA reported significant between group differences (F(2, 166) = 23.36, p < .001). Tukey's post-hoc revealed significant HRF test score differences between the low active and moderately active groups, and low active and high active groups (p's <. 001), but not between the moderately active and high active groups (p = .352). Students who scored higher on the HRF test also reported higher levels of PA. These findings support the implementation and requirement of conceptually based fitness-for-life courses which may improve HRF knowledge and PA behavior.


There is a major concern regarding the prevalence of young people who are at risk for overweight or overweight in the U.S. Data in the United States indicate that 17.1% of children and adolescents were considered overweight in 2003-04 (Ogden, Carroll, Curtin, McDowell, Tabak, & Flegal, 2006). The increasing trend of at risk for overweight and overweight is highlighted by the fact that from 1999-2000 to 2003-04, the prevalence of overweight among female youth rose from 13.8 to 16.6%, and from 14.0 to 18.2% in male youth (Hedley, Ogden, Johnson, Carroll, Curtin, & Flegal, 2004; Ogden et al., 2006). A major factor associated with at risk for overweight and overweight in youth is reduced physical activity (Dencker et al., 2006; Thomas, 2006).

The current United States Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) physical activity recommendations for children and adolescents are to participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week, preferably daily (USDHHS, 2005). Regular and adequate physical activity in childhood improves strength, endurance, and also helps build healthy bones and muscles (Bailey & Martin, 1994; Twisk, 2001). In addition, physical activity aids in the social, emotional, and psychological aspects of health (Biddle, Goreley, & Stensel, 2004; Paluska & Schwenk, 2000). For people of all ages, those who are overweight are at higher risk for depression, eating disorders, distorted body image, and low self-esteem (USDHHS, 1996; USDHHS, 2007).

Despite the fact that these benefits seem to be widely known, only 35.8% of youth participate regularly in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2005). In addition, research has found that low levels of MVPA are most prevalent among adolescent girls (Sallis, Prochaska, & Taylor, 2000). Although physical education seems to be the ideal place to counter the trend of overweight youth, the percentage of students who attended daily physical education dropped from 42% in 1991 to 28% in 2003 (American Heart Association/National Association for Sport and Physical Education [AHA/NASPE], 2006).

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