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The aim of this study was to investigate if physical fitness (strength/power, endurance, flexibility and coordination) mediates the cross-sectional relationship between physical activity and physical self-perception (athletic competence and physical appearance) in a sample of 15-year old adolescents. We wanted to investigate the relative strength of each indirect effect. The present data are taken from two waves of a larger data collection for the project “Youth in Balance”, and was collected in the autumn of 2005 (N = 1207) and 2008 (N = 632). A total of 1839 students (889 girls and 950 boys) from 12 schools in Kristiansand took part. A bias-corrected bootstrapping technique was used to examine indirect effects. Results revealed that cardiovascular endurance, lower-body strength/power, and upper-body strength stood out as unique mediators in the relationship between physical activity and athletic competence in both genders. Furthermore, there was an indirect effect of physical activity on physical appearance through physical strength/power and flexibility in males. No indirect effects of physical activity on physical appearance through actual physical fitness indices were detected in females.
Haugen, Ommundsen, and Seiler are with the Dept. of Public Health, Sport, and Nutrition, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway.