Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Attitudes, Knowledge, and Beliefs as Predictors of Exercise Intent and Behavior in Schoolchildren

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Attitudes, Knowledge, and Beliefs as Predictors of Exercise Intent and Behavior in Schoolchildren

Article excerpt

Attitudes, Knowledge, and Beliefs as Predictors of Exercise Intent and Behavior in Schoolchildren

ABSTRACT: Physical education programs represent an important gateway for encouraging young people

to develop life-long exercise habits. In this study of middle school students (N = 603), attitudes

toward physical education, knowledge about the benefits of exercise, and beliefs about one's

abilities were assessed to determine their influence on exercise intent and current exercise

behavior. As predicted, perceived benefits of exercise, current exercise behavior, attitudes

toward physical education, self-esteem, and gender contributed significantly and independently to

exercise intent (total variance explained = 37%). Exercise intent, outside sports activities,

perceived benefits of exercise, gender, and attitudes toward physical education contributed

significantly and independently to current exercise behavior (total variance explained = 27%).

Programs that make attending physical education a pleasant experience and that explain specific

benefits of exercise can influence exercise intent and can enhance students' sense of self-esteem,

both of which may increase future exercise behavior. (J Sch Health 1989;59(3):112-115)

While evidence supporting the health benefits of exercise increases,[1,2] researchers need to discover ways to motivate children to develop life-long exercise habits. Educators and program planners continue to search for effective ways to increase exercise rates among the general population,[3-7] and particularly among adults who lead a sedentary lifestyle and subsequently develop health problems for which exercise is prescribed.[3,8] Simons-Morton et al,[9] in a review article, suggested adults' disinclination to exercise was linked to a lack of favorable physical activity during adolescence. They also suggested that physical education programs which make exercise enjoyable could enhance intent to exercise. Given the likelihood the 1990 health objective for physical fitness and exercise that calls for 60% of children ages 10-17 to participate in daily physical education will not be met, a need exists to plan enjoyable physical education programs that encourage students at all skill levels to participate.

Several studies have shown the beliefs described in the Health Belief Model, such as perceived benefits of a particular behavior, perceived barriers to that behavior, and perceived threat posed by not engaging in a particular behavior, correlate significantly with preventive health behavior.[11] Perceived benefits of exercise might include improvement in physical appearance and longterm health benefits. Perceived barriers might include committing the time and effort required to maintain an exercise program.

A program that enhances student's beliefs in their own ability to exercise represents another factor that may contribute to exercise enjoyment. Bandura's social cognitive theory[12] suggests that individuals who see themselves as capable of achieving a particular outcome (perceived self-efficacy) will expend more effort to achieve that outcome. According to Bandura, health messages must instill people with the belief they can alter their health habits, which can increase an individual's determination to modify detrimental health habits. This encouragement may be especially important among children who do not exercise on their own.[13]

In addition to believing they can maintain an exercise program, students must care enough about themselves to want to exercise; they must possess enough self-esteem.[14] Physical education programs that enhance student's belief in their ability to exercise and that promote interest in maintaining an exercise program could influence intent to exercise as well as long-term exercise behavior.

This pilot study determined whether students' attitudes toward exercise, attitudes toward physical education, and beliefs about themselves, such as perceived self-esteem, perceived athletic ability, and perceived ability to maintain commitments, were related to current exercise behavior and intent to exercise. …

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