Physical Activity and Physical Self-Concept among Sedentary Adolescent Females; An Intervention Study

Psychol Sport Exerc. 2008 Jan;9(1):1-14. doi: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2007.01.003.


PROBLEM: Physical activity has been promoted as a means of enhancing self-concept, yet the evidence for this connection is far from compelling. In particular, experimental research investigating this association during adolescence, a period during which many youth struggle to maintain a positive self-image, is noticeably lacking. This study investigates the impact on self-concept of a 9-month physical activity intervention among sedentary adolescent females. METHOD: Female adolescents who were sedentary at baseline were assigned either to an exercise intervention or a comparison group as part of the controlled trial. The intervention was school-based, and assignment to groups was based on school attended. Intervention participants engaged in supervised activity 4 times per week and received didactic instruction promoting activity outside of school 1 day per week. Self-concept, physical activity participation, and cardiovascular fitness were assessed before, mid-way through, and after the 9-month intervention. RESULTS: The intervention had a significant positive impact on participation in vigorous activity and cardiovascular fitness. The intervention did not significantly influence any of the self-concept dimensions overall. There was, however, a three-way interaction such that there was an increase in global physical self-concept among those intervention participants who increased cardiovascular fitness. CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate that a physical activity intervention among sedentary adolescent females enhanced global physical self-concept for a subset of intervention participants who manifested positive changes in fitness.