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Profiles of Physical Fitness and Fitness Enjoyment Among Children: Associations With Sports Participation

An De Meester, Mohd Rozilee Wazir Norjali Wazir, Matthieu Lenoir & Farid Bardid

rqes cover March 2022

In many Western countries, the decreasing levels of physical activity in children, adolescents, and adults are one of the major public health challenges for the future (Guthold et al., 2018). Regular physical activity has short- and long-term physical, mental, and social health benefits, including a reduced risk of overweight and obesity (World Health Organization, 2016). With these benefits in mind, numerous attempts have been made to promote physical activity, many of them in preschool or primary school children (World Health Organization, 2016). Sport is a structured form of physical activity, which is popular among children and linked to different positive psychological and social health outcomes such as higher self-esteem, better social skills, fewer depressive symptoms, higher confidence, and higher competence (Eime et al., 2013). As such, understanding the factors that influence sports participation is crucial in order to encourage children to engage in physical activity and develop an active lifestyle.

In their conceptual framework, Stodden et al. (2008) describe the dynamic relationship between physical activity and other health-related factors, and how these factors interact. One of these factors is physical fitness, which refers to the capacity to carry out physical activity (Ortega et al., 2008). Physical fitness is a multi-faceted concept and involves health-related components such as cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength, and endurance, speed and agility, and flexibility (Caspersen & Christenson, 1985). Literature has shown positive associations between physical fitness and various health-related outcomes including physical activity and motor competence (e.g., Smith et al., 2019; Utesch et al., 2019). Stodden et al. (2008) describe how children with higher levels of physical fitness will be more likely to participate in and maintain physical activity and develop motor skills, which will reduce the risk of unhealthy weight gain. This will in turn positively influence their levels of physical fitness, motor competence, and physical activity, leading to a positive spiral of engagement in physical activity. Since the conceptual model was published, numerous studies have examined and provided evidence for each of the hypothesized relationships (see Robinson et al., 2015, for a review).

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