Physical activity (PA) declines as adolescents get older, and the motivational determinants of PA warrant further investigation. The purposes of this study were to investigate the amount of physical and sedentary activity that adolescents participated in across age, gender, and race, and to investigate adolescents’ attraction to PA and their perceived barriers and benefits across age, gender, and race.
High school students (N = 1163) aged between 13 and 16 years completed questionnaires on minutes and intensity of physical and sedentary activity, interests in physical activity, and perceived benefits and barriers to participating in PA.
A series of multivariate analyses of variance were conducted and followed up with discriminant function analysis. PA participation decreased in older females. In addition, fun of physical exertion was a primary attraction to PA for males more than females. Body image as an expected outcome of participating in PA contributed most to gender differences.
There is a need to determine why PA drops-off as females get older. Findings underscore the importance of structuring activities differently to sustain interest in male and female adolescents, and highlights motives of having a healthy body image, and making PA fun to enhance participation.