Background: Evidence suggests that physical self-concept is associated with physical activity in children and adolescents, but no systematic review of this literature has been conducted.
Objective: The primary aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to determine the strength of associations between physical activity and physical self-concept (general and sub-domains) in children and adolescents. The secondary aim was to examine potential moderators of the association between physical activity and physical self-concept.
Methods: A systematic search of six electronic databases (MEDLINE, CINAHL, SPORTDiscus, ERIC, Web of Science and Scopus) with no date restrictions was conducted. Random effects meta-analyses with correction for measurement were employed. The associations between physical activity and general physical self-concept and sub-domains were explored. A risk of bias assessment was conducted by two reviewers.
Results: The search identified 64 studies to be included in the meta-analysis. Thirty-three studies addressed multiple outcomes of general physical self-concept: 28 studies examined general physical self-concept, 59 examined perceived competence, 25 examined perceived fitness, and 55 examined perceived appearance. Perceived competence was most strongly associated with physical activity (r = 0.30, 95% CI 0.24-0.35, p < 0.001), followed by perceived fitness (r = 0.26, 95% CI 0.20-0.32, p < 0.001), general physical self-concept (r = 0.25, 95% CI 0.16-0.34, p < 0.001) and perceived physical appearance (r = 0.12, 95% CI 0.08-0.16, p < 0.001). Sex was a significant moderator for general physical self-concept (p < 0.05), and age was a significant moderator for perceived appearance (p ≤ 0.01) and perceived competence (p < 0.05). No significant moderators were found for perceived fitness.
Conclusion: Overall, a significant association has been consistently demonstrated between physical activity and physical self-concept and its various sub-domains in children and adolescents. Age and sex are key moderators of the association between physical activity and physical self-concept.