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Social physique anxiety and physical activity in early adolescent girls: The influence of maturation and physical activity motives

Study that investigated the impact of maturation on social physique anxiety and it’s impact on physical activity levels, along with the role of motives in physical activity participation, for adolescent girls.

Niven, A.; Fawkner, S.; Knowles, A.-M.; Henretty, J. & Stephenson, C.  School of Life Sciences, Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh.  (2009).

Aim:  This study aimed to investigate the influence of maturation on social physique anxiety, the impact of this factor on physical activity participation and the relationship between motives, social physique anxiety and physical activity levels in a number of U.K. schools. 

Method:  162 females participated at both of the two phases in the study (mean age= 11.8 years). The two phases were 6 months apart.  Measures recorded included:  Physical activity (using the Physical Activity Questionnaire for Older Children, PAQ-C, which recorded activity over seven days, both inside and outside of school and the intensity of the physical activity), maturation level (using the self-report Pubertal Development Scale), Social physique anxiety (using the Social Physique Anxiety Scale) and motives for physical activity (using the revised Physical Activity Measure). 

Findings:  Physical activity levels decreased between Phase 1 and Phase 2.  Girls who were in the early stages of maturation reported less social physique anxiety than those who were described as being in later stages; this is consistent with previous research.  However, social physique anxiety was not related to physical activity levels, or predictive of later physical activity levels.  Four different groups were identified in terms of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to participation in physical activity.  The only group that displayed a strong negative relationship between social physique anxiety and physical activity was the High Appearance and Fitness Groups.

Implications: Interventions should focus on decreasing social physique anxiety and increase positive attitudes towards body perceptions.  Social physique anxiety has a differential effect on physical activity participation for different groups of adolescents.  For example females who have high social physique anxiety along with being motivated to participate in physical activity for appearance and fitness reasons will have a negative effect on behaviour.  Girls who are motivated by appearance are less likely to participate in physical activity on the long-term. Interventions should focus on females with high social physique anxiety in order to develop their intrinsic motivation to participate in physical activity.

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Journal of Sports Sciences, 2009, 27 (3), 299 - 305

Further Contact Details

A. Niven, School of Life Sciences, Heriot Watt University. E-mail: a.niven@hw.ac.uk

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