Background: Physical education (PE) plays a critical role in the healthy development of youth; however, the influence of PE classes in helping to provide students with health-related behavior patterns is not clear. This study aims to analyze whether participation in PE classes is associated with health-related behavior among high school students.
Methods: A total of 4210 students attending public high schools in Pernambuco (northeast of Brazil) were selected using random 2-stage cluster sampling. Data were collected by using the Global School-based Student Health Survey. The independent variable was the frequency of participation in PE classes, whereas physical activity, television viewing, smoking, and alcohol, fruit, vegetables and soda consumption were dependent variables. Logistic regressions were carried out to perform crude and adjusted analysis of the association between enrollment in PE classes and health-related behaviors.
Results: Sixty-five percent of students do not take part in PE classes, with a significantly higher proportion among females (67.8%). It was observed that enrollment in PE classes was positively associated with physical activity, TV viewing, and fruit consumption, but was negatively associated with soda drinking. The likelihood of reporting being active and eating fruit on a daily basis was 27% and 45% higher, respectively, among those who participate in at least 2 classes per week in comparison with those who do not. Students who participate in PE classes had 28-30% higher likelihood of reporting lower TV viewing during week days.
Conclusions: Findings suggest that higher levels of enrollment in PE classes could play a role in the promotion of health-related behaviors among high school students.