Authors: Brandi M. Eveland-Sayers1, Andy R. Dotterweich1, Alyson J. Chroust2, Abigail D. Daugherty3, and Kara L. Boynewicz4
1Department of Sport, Exercise, Recreation & Kinesiology, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee
2 Department of Psychology, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee
3Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee
4Physical Therapy Program, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee
Andy R. Dotterweich
Sport, Exercise, Recreation and Kinesiology
PO Box 70671
Johnson City, TN 37601
Brandi Eveland-Sayers is an Associate Professor of Exercise Science at East Tennessee State University. Her research interests include physical literacy, exercise adherence in youth, and long-term athlete development.
Andy R. Dotterweich is a Professor of Exercise Science at East Tennessee State University. His research interests include youth sport, recreation management and policy, physical activity, long-term athlete development, and community development.
Alyson Chroust is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department at East Tennessee State University. Her research interests include infant and child development and visual cognition. Abigail Daugherty is a graduate student in Sport Psychology and Motor Behavior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Her research interests include the fidelity of virtual reality in a military training environment and long-term athlete development. Her professional interests include becoming a mental resilience trainer-performance expert within a tactical population.
Kara Boynewicz is an Assistant Professor in the Physical Therapy Department at East Tennessee State University. She is a board certified pediatric physical therapy specialist with clinical experience of infants and children in a variety of settings including school, outpatient, and hospital. Her research interests include early identification of children who are “at risk” for adverse childhood development, specifically in the realm of gross motor development and skill acquisition.
Relationships Between BMI and Self-Perception of Adequacy in and Enjoyment of Physical Activity in Youth Following a Physical Literacy Intervention
Purpose: The purpose of this research was to examine the relationships between body mass index (BMI) and self-perception of adequacy in and enjoyment of physical activity in youth following implementation of a six-week physical literacy (PL) intervention. Methods: Students (n=92) in grades 2-5 completed the Children’s Self-Perceptions of Adequacy and Predilection for Physical Activity (CSAPPA) scale pre- and post-PL intervention. The PL intervention program consisted of a weekly, 30-minute program conducted by trained individuals during the school day. This program focused on the mechanics of running, jumping, and throwing. Height and weight were measured pre-intervention to calculate BMI using the Center for Disease Control’s Youth and Teen calculator. Results: A significant interaction between CSAPPA score and BMI category was found, F(1, 82) = 4.948, p < 0.05). Students in the abnormal BMI category post-PL intervention CSAPPA scores were higher than their pre-PL scores. Conclusion: Based on the results, PL programming seems favorable in improving self-perception of physical activity selection in children with abnormal BMIs. Previous research has shown that students who do not feel confident performing a task are less likely to participate. Following the trend of decreased exposure to physical activity during school, it is possible that students with unhealthy BMIs are not getting proper exposure to the mechanics of movement. This scenario may lead to less physical activity participation and increases in unhealthy BMI ranges. Applications in Sport Fitness and Health: By teaching children that they can move proficiently, children may increase self-perceptions of physical activity and make more active choices which may attenuate increasing BMI trends and lead to future sport participation.
Keywords: BMI, CSAPPA, RJT, Physical literacy, Youth
The goal of physical education class or participation in sport is to teach children skills that will allow them to be physically active across their life span. In 2017-2018, the most recent statistics available from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), childhood obesity affected about 14.4 million children and the number seems to be climbing (8). Despite childhood obesity being at an all-time high, schools are turning the focus away from physical activity and physical education toward other subjects (8). In contrast, physical education professionals and the health care community are developing outreach programs incorporating physical literacy to educate stakeholders and assist in preventing obesity in youth (11, 12, 16, 23).
Physical literacy is generally defined as an individual’s motivation, confidence, knowledge, physical ability, and understanding to responsibly pursue and maintain involvement in physical activity across lifespan (6, 35). These concepts include the following four domains: 1) motivation and confidence (affective), 2) physical competence (physical), 3) knowledge and understanding (cognitive), and 4) engagement in physical activities for life (behavioral) (29).
However, there is a paucity of research on the interactions between physical literacy domains. There is also a discrepancy between approaches to developing physical literacy since some researchers focus on holistic physical literacy while others broach the topic from a performance-driven mindset (1, 20, 33). A holistic approach provides individuals with the necessary skills to make competent and confident personalized decisions regarding a physically active lifestyle (22, 25, 34). In contrast, a performance-driven approach emphasizes physical skill development to build motor competence (19, 27).
Both the holistic and performance-driven approaches potentially impact how a child views themselves as well as how they view physical activity. A holistic approach teaches children to work at their own pace and fosters confidence and competence, but can result in slower skill development. However, individuals participating in a physical literacy program with a performance-drive approach have “a self-awareness that encourages moral behavior and meaningful connections with others in physical activity contexts” (1). Because competition is a tool used to motivate and encourage children in performance-driven approaches, this type of literacy program can potentially discourage some children from physical activity (18, 20). Discrepancies between these two approaches have resulted in categorizing the approach to physical literacy into either physical education or youth sport; two areas that may have significant overlap (20).
Tremblay and Lloyd (30) brought forward the argument that measuring physical literacy limits research. The problems between different domains and approaches have led to delays in developing an assessment tool specifically designed to evaluate the physical literacy concept in its entirety. Few tools cover all four of the generally accepted domains (physical, cognitive, affective, and social) of physical literacy (30). Allan et al. (1) suggested that those approaching physical literacy from a performance perspective produce more research than individuals using a holistic approach because the holistic approach is heavily philosophically based, which can be difficult to evaluate (1). Due to the lack of a comprehensive evaluation, researchers often use individual tools to assess the various domains of physical literacy. Using multiple tools leaves room for error in interpretations of the domain interactions. Collecting data with various instruments also becomes problematic because each device has a slightly different scoring system. The difference in scoring systems can lead to confusion when comparing multiple studies or explaining results to an individual (9).
Despite the limitations of using multiple tools, interactions between physical, affective (the child’s self-perception) and behavioral (views towards physical activity) domains have been demonstrated. For example, many researchers have noted that if a child feels confident in an activity, then they are more likely to participate (5, 15, 21, 26). Studies by Wrotniak et al. (36) and Cairney et al. (5) show how children’s involvement in physical activity could be related to their perceived motor proficiency.
Unlike some of the early definitional confusion in physical literacy research, a standard definition for perceived adequacy and predilection has been established. The description for adequacy states that an individual’s perceived adequacy relates to a level of success achieved determined by standards influenced by self, parents, peers, teachers, and societal expectations (15).Predilection is the likelihood of a child selecting an active choice versus a sedentary option (15).To date, there are no studies examining changes over time in children’s self-efficacy for physical activity for children with obese or overweight BMIs. However, there is research supporting the relationship between BMI and self-efficacy for physical activity. For example, having an overweight or obese BMI was associated with lower CSAPPA scores (2, 32). Moreover, a systematic review indicated that self-esteem related to physical competence and physical appearance was lower in children and adolescents with obesity compared to those with healthy weights (14). Understanding the interaction between adequacy in and predilection for physical activity may play a significant role in a child’s current and future physical activity involvement.
Given the support of previous research concerning interactions within physical literacy domains, current research efforts have shifted toward examining what other factors may affect these interactions (36). Research is also exploring how interactions can be used as a predictive measure for current or future child involvement in physical activity (i.e., physical education or youth sport) (36). By including outside factors and predictive qualities, research can begin exploring ways to teach and foster physical activity skills in children. Having this predictive capability will also allow coaches, teachers, and others to be better equipped when teaching the importance of physical literacy to children and adults.
Physical literacy skills, perception of physical ability, and BMI may impact a child’s involvement in physical activities. Teaching children basic mechanics and exposing them to new activities may increase the likelihood of selecting a physically active option versus a passive option. The purpose of this research was to examine the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and self-perception of adequacy in and enjoyment of physical activity following implementation of a six-week physical literacy intervention.
Participants of this study included 92 students in grades two through five (2nd n = 22, 3rd n = 22, 4th n = 24, 5th n = 22) at a single study site. The study staff received permission from the school administration and University Institutional Review Board. Parental consent and child assent forms were obtained from all children whose data were included in this study.
For this study, a modified version of the Children’s Self-Perception of Adequacy in and Predilection for Physical Activity (CSAPPA) scale was used. This survey is a generalized measure used to evaluate a child’s self-efficacy for physical activity and their desire to participate in physical activities (15). The 20-item CSAPPA measure was designed for use in children ages 9-16 years of age and consists of three domains of self-efficacy: adequacy, enjoyment, and predilection. It has demonstrated a high test-retest reliability (r = 0.84-0.90) as well as strong predictive and construct validity (15). Following the model of Grant-Beuttler et al. (13), slight adjustments were made to simplify the decision-making process for children. Thus, children were asked to determine which of the statements were “most like them”. Active and inactive phrases (e.g., some kids enjoy PE class versus some kids do not enjoy PE class) were randomly selected across 20 items. The survey was evaluated with the active choice being assigned a score of one and the passive choice being assigned a score of zero. The child’s total score was the number used for comparison (13, 15).
The BMI for each subject was calculated using the Center for Disease Control’s Child and Teen BMI calculator. The needed values of height, weight, and age of individual were collected pre-intervention. Once calculated, the individuals were categorized into either healthy BMI or unhealthy BMI (i.e., underweight, overweight, obese BMI) based on the BMI percentile calculator for children and teens (7).
The survey data collection was performed in a 30-minute session during the school day, with one study administrator explaining the surveys to the whole class. Following the instructions, other administrators assisted individual students as needed. Students were instructed and frequently reminded to answer the survey honestly and on their own to limit the influence of peers. Height (cm) and weight (kg) were collected during this time.
This physical literacyintervention program consisted of a once-weekly (six total weeks), 30-minute program conducted by trained individuals during the school day. The program was designed to focus on the mechanics of running, jumping, and throwing (see Figure 1). The training was based on the USA Track and Field/Hershey Run, Jump, Throw (31) curriculum which is a free program designed for improving physical literacy skills and increasing physical activity. The program was designed for nearly non-stop participant movement. Movement skills focused on locomotor skills and ballistic skills (i.e., throwing). Locomotor skills included: running mechanics, various skips, shuffling, carioca/grapevine, running pace, starts, hurdles, broad jump, hops, bounding, proper landing and balance. The ballistic skills focused solely on teaching and practicing proper overhand throwing mechanics. Homework was also given in the form of practicing what they had learned, physical challenges to try (e.g., cross-legged sit to stand without hands on the ground), body weight exercises (e.g., push up, squat) and stretching (31).
Figure 1. Sample Day of Run, Jump, Throw (adapted from USATF/Hershey)
- Locomotives/Dynamic Warm-up (6 min):
- High knees (Marching) 2 x 15 meters
- High knees (fast up and down) 2 x 15 meters
- A skips-high knees (skipping) 2 x 15 meters
- B skips-high knees with extension 2 x 15 meters
- Side Skips (may add windmill arms if capable) 2 x 15 meters
- Carioca (grape vine) 2 x 15 meters—May have younger ones walk
- Learning About Jumping (15 min):
- Easy hops (one leg at a time): Go Forward, Backward and to both sides
- 6 inches per hop with slow and rhythmic tempo
- Medium hops (one leg at a time)
- Move 1 foot per jump and increase to medium speed
- Speed leap (cycle legs rather than pogo)
- Tempo is rhythmic and fast
- Bounding (cycle legs)
- Exaggerated running with big arm swings for balance and power
- Double leg jumps
- Jump off both feet, land on both feet
- Bend at hips and knees when landing
- Start with just one jump, progress to 3-4 jumps
- Standing Broad jump
- Two feet, crouch, jump up and out, land on both feet
- 10m speed hop
- “one-legged running”
- Easy hops (one leg at a time): Go Forward, Backward and to both sides
- Learning About Throwing (8 min):
- No more than 10 submaximal throws (target) plus 2 maximal throws
- Homework (1 min): focus on breathing, posture, stretching
- Things to try/practice at home
- Proper throwing motion, Jumping, Sit-to-stand, Push-ups, Squats, Jumping Jacks
- Things to try/practice at home
The study was designed to be completed in approximately 14 weeks (including data collection). Two weeks before and after the intervention was allotted for data collection, and eight weeks were allotted to run the physical literacy intervention program. The staff allotted two weeks of collection to allow for make-up sessions in case a child was absent on the original study day. Extra time was built into the intervention schedule to allow for weather related interruptions. BMI was not included in the post-intervention evaluation because the PL program was to change their perception of their physical abilities not their BMI.
Table 1 presents participants’ pre- and post-physical literacy intervention mean (and standard error) scores on the CSAPPA across grade-level and BMI classification. A mixed ANOVA was conducted with time (i.e., pre, post) as the within-participant factor and grade level (i.e., 2,3,4,5), and child BMI (i.e., normal and unhealthy) as between-participant factors on the CSAPPA survey score. There was significant interaction between Time and BMI, F (1,82) = 4.95, p = 0.03, ηp2 =.057; see Figure 2). There was also a significant interaction between BMI and grade, F (3, 82) = 2.93, p = .04, ηp2 = .097: see Figure 3). All other main effects and interactions were non-significant, all p’s > .18. Follow-up tests indicated that CSAPPA scores significantly increased following the PL intervention for children with unhealthy BMIs [(MD = 1.30), t(26) = 2.87, p = .008, d = .55]. There was no change in CSAPPA scores following the PL intervention for children with healthy BMIs, t(62) = 0.76, p = .448, d = 0.10. Moreover, the interaction between grade-level and BMI was driven by the children in 5th grade. The 5th graders with abnormal BMIs had lower CSAPPA scores (M = 11.5; SE = 1.53) than the 5th graders with normal BMI scores (M = 16.38; SE = 0.93).
Table 1. Pre- and Post- Physical Literacy Intervention Mean (and SE) CSAPPA Scores Across Grade-Level and BMI.
|Grade-Level||BMI||n||CSAPPA Pre-Intervention M (SE)||CSAPPA Post-Intervention M (SE)|
|2nd||Healthy||17||15.77 (.99)||15.59 (.97)|
|Unhealthy||5||14.20 (1.83)||15.60 (1.79)|
|3rd||Healthy||16||15.06 (1.02)||14.32 (1.00)|
|Unhealthy||6||16.00 (1.67)||18.33 (1.64)|
|4th||Healthy||14||15.71 (1.09)||15.36 (1.07)|
|Unhealthy||10||14.90 (1.29)||16.10 (1.27)|
|5th||Healthy||17||16.38 (1.02)||16.38 (1.00)|
|Unhealthy||7||11.33 (1.67)||11.67 (1.64)|
This research is one of the first studies to document changes in self-efficacy for physical activity and desire to participate in physical activities for youth with unhealthy BMIs over time. More specifically, the current study provides evidence that a 6-week physical literacy programming is related to improved self-perception of physical activity selection in children with unhealthy BMIs. Previous research has shown that students who do not feel confident performing a task are less likely to participate (5, 21, 36). Thus, increasing children’s perception and confidence in their ability to be active whether through physical activity or sport is fundamental to increasing physical activity levels.
The self-determination theory provides additional support for the current study in that it states that an individual is more likely to participate in an activity if three fundamental needs of competence, autonomy, and relatedness are met (21). The support of confidence and meeting these three goals can be seen in physical literacy studies where individuals focused on personal physical performance and not all aspects of a physical literacy program. Research has suggested that competition could motivate and encourage a child. Still, it can also discourage a child resulting in a lack of participation or burnout (18, 20). Possibly, focusing on self-improvement rather than competition with others may allow for the benefits of competition without the negative aspects.
Based on trends of decreased exposure to physical activity during school time, students are receiving less physical activity during the day and are exposed less to proper movement mechanics which results in a decrease in overall physical activity participation and increases in abnormal BMI ranges. These trends are like exacerbated for children with unhealthy BMIs. Students who do not feel confident performing a task are less likely to participate in those tasks. By teaching all children that they can move proficiently, children—especially those with unhealthy BMIs—may be more likely to make active choices resulting in improvements in self-perception and, subsequently, improved BMIs.
It is important to note this study site promoted a culture centered on respect, care, and a growth mindset within the student body. The smaller class sizes and promotion of this culture may have had unintended, but positive influence on the results. Future research with larger sample sizes and across multiple study sites could provide a more comprehensive view of the effects of the physical literacy program. Before further conclusions and generalizations can be made on the relations between BMI and self-perceptions of physical activity participants with different BMIs will need to be specifically and systematically studied. These results are still important in demonstrating the direction for future physical education, physical literacy instruction, physical activities outside of school, as well as general fitness education. Teaching and encouraging these healthy habits in young children could lead to healthier, more active lifestyles as adults. Moreover, research on perceived physical ability and predilection is highly subjective. It is asking about individuals’ perceptions and assuming participants are answering subjective questions as honestly and as accurately as possible. Therefore, future research efforts should consider including direct measures of physical activity levels and specific fundamental motor skills.
The release of Canada’s Physical Literacy Consensus Statement was designed to create consistency in the research programs within the country. By establishing this consistency in research, the hope was to develop more effective intervention programs (29). Developing solutions will not be a quick fix. For now, the next steps in research need to be the evaluation of the interaction between all four domains simultaneously, the use of physical literacy programs over extended periods, and how to approach physical literacy instruction at all ages.
To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first time the USA Track and Field/Hershey Run, Jump, Throw program has been researched regarding physical literacy. Ample demonstration, encouragement and practice were provided to students in learning associated motor skills. The non-competitive nature of the program and structured small group learning environment may have contributed to the increase in self-efficacy in older students (5th grade) with unhealthy BMIs. This is an age period when youth begin self-selecting in-school and after-school activities, pubertal changes occur, and greater emphasis is placed on social interaction. Additionally, school mandated physical education decreases around this age group.
Applications in Sport Fitness and Health
Current participation in sport and physical activity participation in the United States is rather poor (3). In an assessment by Aubert, et al. (3), organized sport and PA in the United States received a grade of C. The USA also received an overall score of “D” with regard to physical activity (3). Furthermore, perceived incompetence and fear of being judged have been cited as barriers for sport participation (28). If physical literacy programming enhances efficacy and confidence in movement in youth with unhealthy BMIs, these individuals may be more likely to choose active (sport) activities over passive. The strongest theoretical predictor of commitment to physical activity interventions is self-efficacy (4). Self-efficacy is simply one’s perceived ability to carry out an action. Studies have found that physical competence measures are strong predictors of more regular physical activity in youth (10, 24). With the current trends in BMI and the impact of COVID on youth, providing children with methods of increasing self-efficacy toward movement could be beneficial.
Implications for Future Research
Howie, et al. (17) suggested some priorities for research in sport and physical activity. Their suggestions included: 1) increasing participation rates; 2) improving physical activity in sport through effective coaching; and 3) improving social health (17). While this study was exploratory in nature, the results may have an impact on these three priorities. Future research should center around these three priorities. Replicating the study in a Solomon Four group design to determine actual effect of intervention on psychometric measures would aid in helping determine why those with abnormal BMIs benefitted from the intervention. Examining whether a similar pattern of improvement occurs in students who do not receive physical literacy programming would also be beneficial. Additionally, more research is needed on the impact of physical literacy training on physical, behavioral, and cognitive domains in youth. The researchers would also recommend examining whether physical literacy skills could be included in a youth sport coaching development program. If so, this additional exploration may possibly have an impact on recruitment and retention of youth in sport programming. Lastly, the staff would suggest other researchers to conduct theoretical research using self-determination or self-efficacy theories which would help elucidate the “why” of how physical literacy may improve confidence as well as participation rates in sport and physical activity.
The authors would like to thank the students from psychology, physical therapy and exercise science who assisted with testing and program delivery. Additionally, the researchers appreciate the support of the school administration and faculty in program scheduling.
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