Physical activity awareness of British adolescents

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2011 Jul;165(7):603-9. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.94.


Objectives: To assess adolescent physical activity (PA) awareness and to investigate associations with biologic and psychosocial factors.

Design: Cross-sectional study from November 1, 2005, through July 31, 2007 (the ROOTS study).

Setting: Population-based sample recruited from Cambridgeshire and Suffolk schools (United Kingdom).

Participants: Of 799 participants, 43.6% were male. The mean (SD) age was 14.5 (0.5) years.

Main exposures: Self-rated PA perception, self-reported psychosocial factors, and measured anthropometry.

Main outcome measures: We measured PA with accelerometry for 5 days. Inactive was defined as less than 60 minutes per day of moderate and vigorous PA (MVPA) measured by accelerometry. Associations between awareness (agreement between self-rated and accelerometry-measured active/inactive) and potential correlates were investigated using multinomial logistic regression.

Results: Approximately 70.1% of adolescents were inactive (81.2% of girls and 55.8% of boys; odds ratio [OR], 3.41; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.41-4.82). There were 52.6% of all girls (64.8% of inactive girls) and 33.6% of all boys (60.3% of inactive boys) who inaccurately rated themselves as active (overestimators). Compared with girls accurately describing themselves as inactive (28.6%), girl overestimators had lower fat mass (OR, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.70-0.99), higher socioeconomic status (high vs low OR, 2.38; 95% CI, 1.07-5.32), more parent support (OR, 1.57; 95% CI, 1.12-2.22), and better family relationships (OR, 0.25; 95% CI, 0.09- 0.67). Among boys accurately describing themselves as inactive (22.1%), overestimators had lower fat mass (OR, 0.86; 95% CI, 0.77-0.96) and reported more peer support (OR, 1.75; 95% CI, 1.32-2.30) and less teasing (OR, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.61-0.92).

Conclusions: A substantial number of adolescents believe themselves to be more physically active than they really are. They may be unaware of potential health risks and unlikely to participate in PA promotion programs. Increasing information of PA health benefits beyond weight control might encourage behavior change.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anthropometry
  • Awareness*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory / instrumentation
  • Motor Activity*
  • Psychology, Adolescent*
  • Social Class
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom