Patterns of Physical Activity Research Paper

Pages: 8 (3056 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Children

The reason for this most likely a result of greater socialization towards sports in males vs. females and differential developmental factors. In addition, elementary school physical education curricula that implemented more vigorous activities were shown to result in greater beneficial attitudes towards exercise in all children as well as an obvious increase in their physical activity levels (Luepker, Perry, McKinlay, et al., 1996). Thus, positive early exposure to exercise fosters continued physical activity in childhood and adulthood.

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There have been a number of studies investigating the personal and social variables that are associated with levels of childhood exercise. Van Der Horst et al. (2007) reviewed all the published literature between January of 1999 and January of 2005 and using strict criteria found a number of studies that demonstrated positive relationships between personal and social variables and the level of childhood activity. Personal variables that demonstrated consistent positive relationships with the level of childhood activity included male gender, ethnicity (greater levels of activity were consistently observed for Caucasian children), self-esteem, an attitude toward exercise in that there were perceived benefits from regular exercise, having a sense of perceived enjoyment from exercise, feelings of competence in playing sports, and participation in school sports programs. Social variables in the studies that demonstrated consistent positive relationships with levels of childhood activities included level of familial socioeconomic status (higher status was associated with greater physical activity levels), parental activity level (for male but not female children), and family and peer support.

Research Paper on Patterns of Physical Activity and Assignment

Surprisingly there were no inverse relationships found between childhood or adolescent activity level and the number of hours spent watching television or with behaviors like cigarette smoking, but there were positive associations for childhood sedentary behaviors and parent television watching. These results were in general agreement with an earlier review by Sallis, Prochaska, Taylor, Hill, and Geraci (1999) that had looked at similar associations in studies performed over the years 1970-1998. Sallis et al. did find evidence not supported by Van Der Horst et al. such as negative associations of childhood activity with activity barriers (such as physical disabilities), access to facilities for exercise, and positive relationship with physical activity level and a preference for physical over sedimentary activity.

The differences between the two studies notwithstanding, a review of the research indicates that there are consistent associations, both personal and social, that may influence the level of childhood activity/exercise. The personal variables that demonstrate strong associations with child activity level appear to be male gender, feelings of positive self-esteem, a general feeling of competence at sports, and a positive attitude towards physical activity and sports. We can surmise that these beliefs and feelings are reinforced by many of the social variables that are associated with greater levels of childhood activity such as parental and peer support as well as from parental behaviors that are modeled by the child. In addition, early exposure to vigorous activity in school appears to foster more positive attitudes towards exercise in children indicating that positive exposure or learning promotes a healthier attitude towards exercise (Trost et al., 1996). Given the research findings, it does not appear appropriate to accept the notion that children with innately higher levels of self-esteem are automatically drawn to greater levels of physical activity. There is also evidence that being forced to exercise as a child as opposed to being encouraged to exercise has deleterious effects on later adult activity levels, which again would support the notion that encouragement and support of activity during one's early years leads to greater levels of childhood and adolescent activity. Taylor, Blair, Cummings, Wun, & Malina (1999) found that the frequency of being forced to exercise during the preteen years was inversely related to adult physical activity in males and being forced to exercise early on was also related to the preference for participation in individual activities rather than to participation in team sports. Thus, it appears that encouragement, support, and acceptance are key factors in the level of activities/exercise that children engage in and that this may later affect adult activity levels.


Some very general conclusions can be drawn from a review of the research on how childhood activity levels affect adult behavior and health:

(1.) There is a moderate relationship between childhood levels of physical activity and adult levels of physical activity. Inactive children are very likely to be inactive adults and inactivity in adulthood is related to a high risk of contracting serious health problems.

(2.) Research has identified variables that are associated with greater activity levels in children.

(3.) Many children may not fulfill CDC recommendations for healthy activity levels.

Given these findings we can outline several courses of action to increase and maintain activity levels or exercise programs in children and hopefully lead to more active adult lifestyles. First, the early implementation of relatively vigorous exercise and physical education classes throughout elementary, middle, and high school is suggested. Such programs should not concentrate on the competitive aspects of sports, but on personal gain, enjoyment, and benefit of physical activity by allowing students to engage in activities enjoyable to them. Secondly, physical education classes should include more education about the benefits of lifelong exercise. Third, parental involvement in this process appears to be very important and schools should encourage parental involvement in extra-curricular activities targeted towards sports and exercise at an early age. Parents could get involved with keeping children physically active at an early age through programs at local YMCAs, civic centers, youth centers, etc. It is important to support children in these endeavors and try and lean away from competitive aspects of sports and exercise. Activities like swimming, weight training, running, dance, non-competitive martial arts, etc. can be substituted for competitive activities. Finally, special attention to maintaining physical activities during the transition years from high school to young adulthood should considered as these are years when physical activity levels fall sharply.


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Taylor, W.C., Blair, S.N., Cummings, S.S., Wun, C.C., & Malina, R.M. (1999). Childhood and adolescent physical activity… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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"Patterns of Physical Activity."  March 27, 2011.  Accessed July 9, 2020.