Purpose: To determine whether change in physical activity level impacts adolescents' self-perceptions.
Methods: Using questionnaire responses from the Growing Up Today Study (GUTS) in 1997 and 1999, we evaluated data from 5260 girls and 3410 boys. Physical activity changes were compared to changes in perceived competence in three domains (social, athletic, and scholastic) as well as in global self-worth. Analyses controlled for sibling clustering as well as for potential confounders, including body mass index, cigarette smoking, baseline activity levels, and baseline self-perception scores.
Results: For girls and boys, increase in physical activity was positively associated with change in social and athletic (p < .0001), but not scholastic or global, self-perception. Compared to those with little or no change in activity, those who increased physical activity were more likely to have increased self-perception measures. Girls who increased physical activity by 5 or more hours/week were at least 33% more likely to have increased social self-perception, and at least 44% more likely to have increased athletic self-perception. In boys, those who increased activity by 10 or more hours/week were 45% more likely to have increased social self-perception. The reverse was also true; for both girls and boys, those with decreased physical activity were more likely to have decreased self-perception scores.
Conclusions: This research indicates that increased physical activity has a positive impact on athletic and social self-perception in girls and boys.