Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Psychosocial Variables Associated with Body Composition and Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Middle School Students

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Psychosocial Variables Associated with Body Composition and Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Middle School Students

Article excerpt

This study examined the associations among self-esteem, depression, physical self-concept, and body satisfaction among 1,022 middle school students who were in the FITNESSGRAM[R] Healthy Fitness Zone[TM] (HFZ) compared to those in the Needs Improvement Zone (NIZ) for body composition and cardiorespiratory fitness. After controlling for socioeconomic status (SES), participants in the body composition HFZ reported higher levels of self-esteem and body satisfaction and rated themselves as being more flexible and having greater endurance than those in the NIZ. After controlling for SES, girls in the cardiorespiratory HFZ had higher levels of self-esteem and body satisfaction and rated themselves as stronger, having greater endurance, and having lower levels of depression than those in the NIZ. Similarly, boys in the cardiorespiratory HFZ reported having greater endurance and being stronger and more satisfied with their bodies than boys in the NIZ. The findings have implications for promoting healthy school environments.

Key words: body mass index, body satisfaction, psychosocial health, self-esteem

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During the past 30 years, obesity rates among U.S. youth have increased dramatically (Centers for Disease Control [CDC], 2009; Ogden, Carroll, & Flegal, 2008). Currently, the national prevalence of obesity among young people is approximately 17%; however, rates are higher in some southern states (see Kelder et al., 2009). In Texas, for example, the prevalence of obesity is approximately 30% for adolescents and projected to increase to over 35% during the next 30 years (Texas Department of State Health Services, 2005). Paralleling the increase in obesity rates, more children and adolescents are experiencing serious health concerns (Freedman, Mei, Srinivasan, Berenson, & Dietz, 2007). Overweight and obese children and adolescents are more likely to develop risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes than are those considered to be normal weight (Ortega, Ruiz, Castillo, & Sjostrom, 2008).

Policy makers at federal, state, and community levels have acknowledged the prevalence of obesity among adolescents and recognize that excess weight gain at a young age increases the risk of obesity during adolescence and adulthood and the likelihood of developing obesity-related diseases later in life (Adair, 2007; Bibbins-Domingo, Coxson, Pletcher, Lightwood, & Goldman, 2007; Eccles, Templeton, Barber, & Stone, 2003; Trzesniewski et al., 2006; Windle et al. 2004). Legislation mandating fitness testing in public schools, such as that approved in California, Georgia, and Texas, illustrates that decision makers also recognize physical fitness and physical activity can help reduce or prevent obesity and obesity-related diseases later in life (Ruiz et al., 2009). Such legislative mandates provide researchers with opportunities to study the short- and long-term effects of physical activity and fitness on children's and adolescents' physical and psychological health (e.g., Singh & McMahan, 2006).

The focus on adolescent psychosocial health is particularly salient, because during the middle school years girls and boys experience many physical, emotional, social, and educational changes that can be challenging to navigate and may negatively influence how they feel about themselves and their bodies. During adolescence, self-reflection and social comparison about one's life and body occurs (Robins & Trzesniewski, 2005; Sebastian, Burnett, & Blakemore, 2008), which often influences self-esteem and self-concept. Self-esteem generally declines during adolescence (Robins & Trzesniewski, 2005), and self-concept may become more complex as young people begin to synthesize personal and social experiences into their sense of self (Sebastian et al., 2008). Regarding body image, girls generally experience increased dissatisfaction, as the physical changes taking place during adolescence (e. …

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