Physical Education Class and Body Image Perception: Are They Related?
Keywords:Physical activity, physical education, body image perception, body weight perception, perceived attractiveness
In this study, we examine if school physical education (PE) policy initiatives are related to body image among adolescents. Problems with body image often peak during adolescence, and it is important that there are ways of improving body image among youth. This cross-sectional study used data from the Health Behavior in School-Aged Children 2001–2002 survey and examined the relationship between PE (requiring PE, number of days spent in PE, and number of minutes spent exercising in PE) and both perceived body size and perceived attractiveness. Regression analyses were conducted with the three PE variables predicting perceived body size and perceived attractiveness. Among boys, requiring PE and the number of minutes spent exercising in PE were negatively related to body size perception. Among girls, number of days in PE and number of minutes spent exercising were negatively related to body size perception. The number of days spent in PE and the number of minutes spent exercising in PE were positively related to perceived attractiveness among boys, while requiring PE was negatively associated with perceived attractiveness among girls. Based on the results of this study, PE may be an important and cost-effective way of reducing negative body image among adolescents, although special consideration may be needed for reducing negative perceived attractiveness among girls. Therefore, school policy implications are discussed. Expanding school programs that promote physical activity, such as PE class, may be a great way of improving body image for a large number of students.
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