Associations Between Physical Activity Enjoyment and Age-Related Decline in Physical Activity in Children—Results From a Longitudinal Within-Person Study

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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  • 1 University of Tuebingen
  • | 2 University of South Carolina
  • | 3 University of Southern California
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Physical activity declines from childhood to adolescence. Affective factors may partially account for this decline. The present study investigated whether within-person changes in children’s enjoyment of physical activity are associated with the age-related decline in physical activity. Children (N = 169, 54% female, 56% Hispanic; 8–12 years old at enrollment) took part in a longitudinal study with six assessment waves across 3 years. At each wave, enjoyment of physical activity was reported, and moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) was measured with an accelerometer across seven consecutive days. MVPA and enjoyment of physical activity both declined across waves. Multilevel analyses revealed that within-person changes in enjoyment moderated the effects of age on within-person changes in MVPA. Enjoyment appeared to be a dynamic factor that buffered against the age-related decline in physical activity in youth. These findings call for health promotion interventions that encourage enjoyable physical activities.

Haas is with the Dept. of School Psychology, Faculty of Science, and the LEAD Graduate School & Research Network, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany. Yang is with the Dept. of Exercise Science, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA. Dunton is with the Dept. of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, and the Dept. of Psychology, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

Haas (petra.haas@uni-tuebingen.de) is corresponding author.
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