How Does Physical Activity Intervention Improve Self-Esteem and Self-Concept in Children and Adolescents? Evidence from a Meta-Analysis

PLoS One. 2015 Aug 4;10(8):e0134804. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0134804. eCollection 2015.


Objective: To perform a systematic review and meta-analysis for the effects of physical activity intervention on self-esteem and self-concept in children and adolescents, and to identify moderator variables by meta-regression.

Design: A meta-analysis and meta-regression.

Method: Relevant studies were identified through a comprehensive search of electronic databases. Study inclusion criteria were: (1) intervention should be supervised physical activity, (2) reported sufficient data to estimate pooled effect sizes of physical activity intervention on self-esteem or self-concept, (3) participants' ages ranged from 3 to 20 years, and (4) a control or comparison group was included. For each study, study design, intervention design and participant characteristics were extracted. R software (version 3.1.3) and Stata (version 12.0) were used to synthesize effect sizes and perform moderation analyses for determining moderators.

Results: Twenty-five randomized controlled trial (RCT) studies and 13 non-randomized controlled trial (non-RCT) studies including a total of 2991 cases were identified. Significant positive effects were found in RCTs for intervention of physical activity alone on general self outcomes (Hedges' g = 0.29, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.14 to 0.45; p = 0.001), self-concept (Hedges' g = 0.49, 95%CI: 0.10 to 0.88, p = 0.014) and self-worth (Hedges' g = 0.31, 95%CI: 0.13 to 0.49, p = 0.005). There was no significant effect of intervention of physical activity alone on any outcomes in non-RCTs, as well as in studies with intervention of physical activity combined with other strategies. Meta-regression analysis revealed that higher treatment effects were associated with setting of intervention in RCTs (β = 0.31, 95%CI: 0.07 to 0.55, p = 0.013).

Conclusion: Intervention of physical activity alone is associated with increased self-concept and self-worth in children and adolescents. And there is a stronger association with school-based and gymnasium-based intervention compared with other settings.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Athletic Performance
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Controlled Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Exercise*
  • Family
  • Female
  • Health Facilities
  • Health Resorts
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Education and Training
  • Prisons
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychology, Adolescent*
  • Psychology, Child*
  • Public Facilities
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • School Health Services
  • Self Concept*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

This research was supported by Scientific Research Fund of Hunan Provincial Education Department (grant number 914 | B41120) (URL: The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.