The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between physical activity and wellbeing in children, and to further explore the extent to which this may vary by gender and weight status.
A representative sample of 1424 9- to 11-year-olds completed a self-report measure of physical activity, the Child Health and Illness Profile, KIDSCREEN, and a self-esteem scale. Body Mass Index (BMI) measurements were also obtained.
24% of children achieved the recommended level of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) per day, with more boys than girls achieving this level. Children achieving the recommended level of MVPA scored significantly higher on measures of the Child Health and Illness Profile (F(5, 1354) = 5.03; P < .001), KIDSCREEN (F(3, 1298) = 4.68; P = .003), and self-esteem (F(1, 1271) = 18.73; P = .003) than less active children although the effect sizes were small (ηp 2 ≈ .01). Substantial gender differences in wellbeing were found reflecting gender specific behaviors and socialization. Weight status had negligible influence on wellbeing.
Children who meet the recommended guidelines of MVPA were more likely to have better wellbeing. When attempting to raise children’s physical activity levels consideration should be given to the specific relationships between wellbeing and physical activity.