Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Changes in Commitment to Physical Activity among 8-to-11-Year-Old Girls Participating in a Curriculum-Based Running Program

Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Changes in Commitment to Physical Activity among 8-to-11-Year-Old Girls Participating in a Curriculum-Based Running Program

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Background: Despite findings that support physical activity (PA) as an effective means of improving health and quality of life, PA levels among girls tend to decline with age. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to assess changes pertaining to PA commitment following a curriculum-based running program designed for 3rd-to-5th-grade girls. Methods: Participants (n=196) were given paper-and-pencil surveys containing an adaptation of the "Feelings about Physical Activity Scale" in addition to items related to demographics, PA behaviors, and curriculum content. Results: Paired-sample t-tests revealed statistically significant differences in overall commitment to PA (p=.006) and attitudes regarding PA (p=.001) from pre-intervention to post-intervention. Results also suggest increases in value of PA. Discussion: The study's findings have important implications for those public health education professionals who develop PA programs f or female children and adolescents. Prior to initiating programs to promote PA for girls, it is important to include educational programs that promote positive attitudes toward exercise, the value of PA, and the behaviors necessary to sustain PA. Translation to Health Education Practice: Programs that are designed only to initiate PA among young girls may not be addressing sustainability. It is through regular and sustained PA that associated health benefits can be achieved.

BACKGROUND

The fundamental need for childhood obesity prevention programs is well justified. Data from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) indicates that 18.8% of children and 17.1% of adolescents in the United States are considered overweight. (1) These statistics reflect a twofold increase in overweight children and a threefold increase in overweight adolescents within the past 20 years. (2) Moreover, adolescent girls are at greater risk than boys of becoming overweight. (3) NHANES data shows an increase in the prevalence of overweight among girls from 13.8% in 1999 to 16% in 2004. (4) This increase raises two major concerns: (1) the predisposition for overweight girls to become obese women--specifically, 80% of overweight children reportedly grow to become obese adults (3); (2) physical and psychosocial health problems associated with obesity. (5,6)

Childhood overweight/obesity is a multifactorial health issue resulting from an imbalance between caloric intake and physical activity (PA). (7) Participation in regular PA may reduce girls' risk for later development of obesity, certain cancers, osteoporosis, stress, and depression, in addition to improving body image, self-esteem, and self-confidence. (8) Results from a recent multicenter longitudinal study found that when comparing 9- and 10-year-old active girls (defined as engaging in the equivalent of 5 or more brisk 30-minute walks per week) to inactive girls (engaging in the equivalent of 2.5 or fewer brisk 30-minute walks per week), there were only small differences in BMI. However, results from the 9-year follow-up revealed significant differences in BMI, with the inactive girls becoming an average of 10 to 15 pounds heavier than the active group by the tenth year of the study. (9) This data indicates the importance of getting girls physically active and sustaining their involvement throughout adolescence to reduce the likelihood of overweight/obesity and associated comorbid health issues.

Despite findings that support PA as an effective means of improving health and quality of life, researchers note that as girls move from preadolescence to adolescence to young adulthood, their PA levels decline. (4,10-12) Results of the aforementioned longitudinal study found that PA levels of girls between the ages of 9 and 19 declined by an average of 7.5 brisk, 30-minute walks per week. (9)

Factors that influence lower PA participation rates among girls include lack of motivation or interest, low self-esteem, and being shy or withdrawn. …

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