Physical Activity, Fitness, and Physical Self-Concept in Adolescent Females

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Genevieve Fridlund Dunton University of California, Irvine

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Margaret Schneider University of California, Irvine

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Dan J. Graham University of California, Irvine

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Dan M. Cooper University of California, Irvine

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Cross-sectional research examined whether physical activity or physical fitness was more closely linked to physical self-concept in adolescent females ages 14 to 17 (N = 103, 63% Caucasian). Moderate physical activity and vigorous physical activity were measured through a 3-day physical activity recall. Physical fitness was assessed using highly accurate measures of peak oxygen consumption (via cycle ergometer) and percent body fat (via dual X-ray absorptiometer). The Physical Self-Description Questionnaire (PSDQ) assessed self-concept in 11 domains (e.g., health, endurance, appearance). Pearson’s correlations showed that vigorous physical activity was positively associated with scores on most of the PSDQ scales (p < .005). Peak oxygen consumption was positively related to all of the selfconcept domains (p < .001), and percent body fat was negatively related on most of the PSDQ scales (p < .005). Multiple-regression analyses found that physical fitness (i.e., peak oxygen consumption and percent body fat) was more closely related to physical self-concept than was physical activity. In addition to the possibility that genetically determined fitness levels may influence physical selfconcept, these findings suggest that programs designed to elevate self-perceptions may require physical activity levels sufficient to improve cardiovascular fitness and decrease body fat.

Dunton and Graham are with the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior; Schneider is with the Department of Planning, Policy, and Design, University of California, Irvine; Cooper is with the Department of Pediatrics at the UCI Medical Center, Orange, CA.

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