Momentary assessment of affect, physical feeling states, and physical activity in children

Health Psychol. 2014 Mar;33(3):255-63. doi: 10.1037/a0032640. Epub 2013 May 13.


Objective: Most research on the interplay of affective and physical feelings states with physical activity in children has been conducted under laboratory conditions and fails to capture intraindividual covariation. The current study used Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) to bidirectionally examine how affective and physical feeling states are related to objectively measured physical activity taking place in naturalistic settings during the course of children's everyday lives.

Methods: Children (N = 119, ages 9-13 years, 52% male, 32% Hispanic) completed 8 days of EMA monitoring, which measured positive affect (PA), negative affect (NA), feeling tired, and feeling energetic up to 7 times per day. EMA responses were time-matched to accelerometer assessed moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in the 30 min before and after each EMA survey.

Results: Higher ratings of feeling energetic and lower ratings of feeling tired were associated with more MVPA in the 30 min after the EMA prompt. More MVPA in the 30 min before the EMA prompt was associated with higher ratings of PA and feeling energetic and lower ratings of NA. Between-subjects analyses indicated that mean hourly leisure-time MVPA was associated with less intraindividual variability in PA and NA.

Conclusions: Physical feeling states predict subsequent physical activity levels, which in turn, predict subsequent affective states in children. Active children demonstrated higher positive and negative emotional stability. Although the strength of these associations were of modest magnitude and their clinical relevance is unclear, understanding the antecedents to and consequences of physical activity may have theoretical and practical implications for the maintenance and promotion of physical activity and psychological well-being in children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Affect
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Emotions*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Fatigue / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities / psychology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male