Cardiovascular Fitness Moderates the Relations Between Estimates of Obesity and Physical Self-Perceptions in Rural Elementary School Students

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Levels of physical activity decline throughout childhood. Children’s physical self-perceptions have been found to relate to their physical activity. Understanding the relationships among physical self-perceptions, obesity, and physical activity could have important implications for interventions in children.


The current study investigated the moderating effect of cardiovascular fitness (CVF, heart rate recovery from a 3-minute step test) on the relationship between obesity (BMI, waist circumference) and physical self-perceptions (athletic competence, physical appearance) in 104 fourth- and fifth-grade children from a small rural community.


Hierarchical regression analyses indicated that CVF moderated the relations between BMI and waist circumference on athletic competence. For children with lower fitness, higher waist circumference was associated with lower athletic competence, while for children with higher fitness levels, higher BMI was associated with higher athletic competence. Results also indicated that both BMI and waist circumference were negatively related to physical appearance. CVF moderated these relations such that only children with lower fitness, greater BMI and waist circumference was associated with poorer physical appearance scores.


Implications include the need for support of fitness programs to promote psychological well-being and to investigate the relationship between obesity and physical self-perceptions within the context of fitness.

Mitchell is with the School of Professional Psychology, Spalding University, Louisville, KY. Moore is with the Dept of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC. Bibeau is with the Dept of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Maryland, College Park, MD. Rudasill is with the Dept of Educational Psychology, College of Education and Human Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE.