n African Journal for Physical Health Education, Recreation and Dance - The status of physical activity, body composition, health-related fitness and social correlates of physical activity among adolescents : the PAHL Study

Volume 21 Number 4.2
  • ISSN : 1117-4315


Research has shown that social correlates of physical activity play an important role in individual participation in physical activity or sport, and hence their link with associated health benefits. The purpose of this study was to determine the status of physical activity (PA), body composition, health related fitness and social correlates of physical activity among adolescents attending high schools in the Tlokwe Local Municipality of the North West Province. A cross-sectional study design was followed on a total of 284 (111 boys and 173 girls) adolescents with the mean age of 14.90±0.72, who are part of the Physical Activity and Health Longitudinal Study (PAHLS). Height, weight, skin-fold thickness (triceps, subscapular and calf) and waist circumferences were measured through the standard procedures described by the International Standard of Advancement of Kinanthropometry (ISAK). Body mass index (BMI), waist-to-height ratio (WtHR) and percentage body fat (%BF) were used as measures of body composition. Health-related physical fitness (HRPF) was determined by measuring cardio-respiratory endurance, muscle strength and endurance, and flexibility using standardised tests test protocols. The standardised International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ-Short form) and Social Support for Physical Activity questionnaire were used to gather information on physical activity and social correlates for physical activity, respectively. The results show that 29% of the 284 participants are underweight and 26% overweight. 34% of boys were underweight and 17% were overweight while 27% of girls were underweight and 32% overweight. Boys significantly (p < 0.05) performed better than girls in health-related fitness of standing broad jump, bent arm hang, sit ups and VO2max, except for sit and reach. Out of 284 participants, 34% participated in low physical activity and 35% in high physical activity. For the total group, 36% indicated that they never have someone who provides them with transportation to a place where they can do physical activities or play sports. About 19% of the participants never had friends who tell them that they are doing a good job at physical activity, 18.6% indicated their friends never encourage them to do physical activities or playsport, 15% never have someone to encourage them to do physical activities or sports; 14% never have someone watch them participate in physical activities or sports; and 12% never have someone tell them that they are doing well in physical activity. Overall, lack of social support to participate in physical activity in girls ranged from 11% to 54% as compared to boys 5% to 26%. Adolescent boys were underweight and highly active as compared to relatively overweight and inactive girls. One week PA participation among adolescents' is affected by many contrasts with the percentages in the never ranging from 8% to 36% (of which lack of transportation to the PA facilities was high 36%). Boys have high social correlates to participate in PA as compared to the girls. Urgent strategic public health interventions by all stakeholders dealing with adolescents as well as more research studies in the area are required.

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