Psychosocial Variables Associated with Body Composition and Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Middle School Students

Girls more than boys benefit psychosocially from cardiorespiratory fitness.

During the middle school years, youths experience physical, emotional and social changes that influence their self-esteem. Experts believe that improved fitness is associated with psychosocial health, including greater self-esteem and body satisfaction.

Researchers examined the relationship between physical health (measured by body mass index and cardiorespiratory fitness) and psychosocial well-being (using established scales to measure general self-esteem, depression, physical self-concept and body satisfaction) among 1,022 middle school students in Texas. They compared students who participated in the Texas Youth Fitness Study who rated in the Healthy Fitness Zone™ (HFZ) of the FITNESSGRAM® with those in the Needs Improvement Zone (NIZ).

After controlling for socioeconomic status, both girls and boys who were in the HFZ for body mass reported greater endurance and flexibility and were more likely to be satisfied with their bodies than those who were in the NIZ. Neither self-esteem nor depression, however, were associated with body composition.

Cardiorespiratory fitness was found to have greater psychosocial benefits for girls than boys. Girls in the HFZ for cardiovascular fitness had higher self-esteem, less depression, more positive ratings of strength and endurance, and greater body satisfaction than those in the NIZ. For boys, cardiorespiratory fitness was related only to strength and endurance. The researchers hypothesize that girls in the HFZ are more involved in sports and derive enhanced self esteem from that participation.