Young people's physical activity, attitudes towards physical education, and health related fitness

  • Lorayne Angela Woodfield

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The aim of this study was to assess the physical activity, attitudes towards physical education, and health related fitness at two points, one year apart (Phase One and Phase Two). Three hundred and ninety four secondary school pupils of mixed ethnicities from National Curriculum school years 7, 8 and 9 (mean age ± S.D. = 12.9 ± 0.81 years) participated in phase one of the study. Two hundred and sixty seven pupils (from the original 394 participants) from National Curriculum school years 8, 9 and 10 (mean age ± S.D. = 13.7 ± 0.79 years) took part in phase two one year later. Physical activity was measured using the four by one-day physical activity recall questionnaire (Cale, 1993). Attitude was measured using the Pre-Adolescent Attitude towards Physical Education Questionnaire (PAAPEQ) (Shropshire, 1997). Five components of health related fitness were measured in a randomly selected sub-sample (35%) of the overall sample: body composition (measured using skinfold measures and body mass index); cardiovascular endurance (measured using the twenty metre multistage fitness test, Brewer et al., 1988); flexibility (measured using the sit and reach test); muscular strength (measured using hand grip dynamometry); and muscular endurance (measured using sit-ups). Results of repeated measures ANOVA revealed a significant decrease in energy expenditure between phase one and phase two (p<0.01) and young people’s energy expenditure was higher during weekends (especially Saturdays) than during school days (p<0.01). Young Asians were found to expend less energy than white and black pupils (p<0.01) and boys expended more energy than girls (p<0.01). No main effect according to school year was found (p>0.05) although a significant ‘time’ by ‘days’ of the week interaction was revealed; pupils in Year 8 were more active on school days than those in Years 7 and 9 (p<0.05). Non-parametric analyses conducted on time spent in moderate physical activity (MPA) and vigorous physical activity (VPA) indicated that: MPA and VPA decreased between phases one and two; Asians consistently spent less time in MPA than white and black pupils (p<0.01); boys engaged in more MPA and VPA than girls (p<0.01). However, the difference in mean reported time for boys and girls decreased between phases one and two. Percentages of the whole sample meeting optimal activity guidelines and percentages classified as active or moderately active decreased between measurements for the whole sample. With regard to attitudes towards PE, results from MANOVA revealed a significant ‘school year’ x ‘ethnicity’ x ‘gender’ interaction (p<0.05). Attitudes of black males became more positive with age whereas the attitudes of other groups followed an age related decline. Significant main effects were found according to school year (p<0.01) and ethnicity (p<0.05). Attitude towards PE became less favourable with school year. Asian pupils had more positive overall attitudes than white and black pupils but univariate analysis revealed that Asian pupils had a less positive attitude towards their PE teacher (p<0.05). Furthermore, Pearson’s product moment correlations indicated weak yet significant positive relationships between total attitude towards PE and energy expenditure (p<0.01), time spent in moderate activity (p<0.05) and time spent in vigorous activity (p<0.01). Results of repeated measures ANOVA conducted on health related fitness data revealed that, for all groups, body fat (p<0.05) and muscular endurance (p<0.01) increased between phases one and two. In both phases, significant positive relationships were found between muscular endurance and energy expenditure (p<0.01) and vigorous activity (p<0.05 and p<0.01 for phases one and two respectively). Therefore, young people who were more active had greater levels of muscular endurance. No further consistent findings were made. Findings indicate that generally young people’s physical activity decreases with age and that girls are less active than boys although as young people age the physical activity gap between the genders narrows. Findings also lend support to the idea that cultural differences may influence physical activity levels and attitudes towards PE. Furthermore, associations between physical activity and attitude towards PE exist and therefore, attitude may be used to predict physical activity behaviour. Ethnicity, age, and attitude towards PE should be considered in the development of future interventions to increase young people’s physical activity levels. However, as the current study did not reveal strong associations between physical activity and health related fitness, further research is required in the area.
Date of Award2008
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SponsorsBirmingham Local Education Authority


  • Young People
  • Youth
  • Physical activity
  • Health
  • Fitness
  • Health attitudes

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