Associations Between Physical Fitness and Children’s Psychological Well-Being

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Timothy LaVigne University of Vermont

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Betsy Hoza University of Vermont

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Alan L. Smith Michigan State University

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Erin K. Shoulberg Michigan State University

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William Bukowski Concordia University

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We examined the relation between physical fitness and psychological well-being in children ages 10–14 years (N = 222), and the potential moderation of this relation by sex. Participants completed a physical fitness assessment comprised of seven tasks and a diverse set of self-report well-being measures assessing depressive symptoms, loneliness, and competence. Peers reported on social status and teachers rated adaptive functioning, internalizing symptoms, and externalizing symptoms. Multiple regression analyses indicated a significant association between physical fitness and psychological well-being for both boys and girls. Higher levels of physical fitness were associated with lower levels of peer dyadic loneliness and fewer depressive symptoms; greater cognitive, social, and athletic competence; greater feelings of self-worth; and better teacher reports of adaptive functioning. An interaction between internalizing and sex indicated a significant and negative association between physical fitness and internalizing symptoms for males only. No other moderation effects by sex were observed. Results suggest that physical fitness is associated with a range of well-being indicators for both boys and girls in this age group.

Timothy LaVigne, Betsy Hoza, and Erin Shoulberg are with the Department of Psychological Science, University of Vermont. Alan L. Smith is with the Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University. William Bukowski is with the Department of Psychology, Concordia University.

Address author correspondence to Timothy LaVigne at tlavigne@uvm.edu.
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