Background: Physical activity is an important health determinant. Little is known about sexual orientation differences in physical activity and their psychosocial determinants.
Purpose: The aim of this study is to examine adolescent and young adult hours/week of moderate/vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and team sports participation by sexual orientation and investigate contributions of gender nonconformity and low athletic self-esteem to possible sexual orientation differences.
Methods: Analysis of data from 5,272 males and 7,507 females from 1999 to 2005 waves of the US Growing Up Today Study (ages 12-22 years).
Results: Sexual minorities (i.e., lesbian, gay, bisexual, mostly heterosexual) reported 1.21-2.62 h/week less MVPA (p < 0.01) and were 46-76 % less likely to participate in team sports than same-gender heterosexuals. Gender nonconformity and athletic self-esteem accounted for 46-100 % of sexual orientation MVPA differences.
Conclusions: Physical activity contexts should be modified to welcome sexual minority males and females. Targeting intolerance of gender nonconformity and fostering athletic self-esteem may mitigate sexual orientation MVPA disparities.