Childrens' Attitudes About Athletic Abilities
October 23, 2003
Agricultural Research Service is
participating in a Texas study of 900 middle-school students and their changing
attitudes about their own athletic abilities. The Children's Nutrition Research
Center (CNRC) in Houston, Texas, is
leading the four-year, $1.2 million study funded by the
National Institutes of Health.
Increasingly, researchers believe that remaining physically active into
adulthood is often determined by whether a person develops an "athletic
identity" in childhood. Even the specific sport a child chooses can have
an impact on whether he or she exercises later in life--and can even influence
future risk for cardiovascular disease. Also, regular physical activity
throughout life is crucial in maintaining a healthy body weight.
The biggest drop in children's physical activities tends to occur as they
move from middle school to high school, partly because they get busier and
school-based team sports become more exclusive.
Cheryl B. Anderson, an assistant professor of pediatrics at
Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, is
leading this study. It will track seventh graders into eighth and ninth grades,
and eighth graders into ninth and tenth grades in various middle schools in the
Houston Independent School District
and the Spring Branch School District in suburban Houston.
About twenty percent of the sample, approximately 200 kids, will wear small
activity monitors--the size of a watch face--24 hours a day for four days, to
record their level of movement. These select students will wear monitors
Thursday through Sunday in the fall of each year and keep a personal activity
journal. Twice each year, all students will complete questionnaires on their
physical activities, in addition to answering questionnaires on athletic
Anderson has hypothesized that people keep exercising over time because they
see themselves as being the types who do these things. In other words, being
athletic, or exercising to be fit, becomes part of their identity.
The CNRC is operated by Baylor College of Medicine in cooperation with
Texas Children's Hospital
and ARS, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.