Physical Activity and Enjoyment: Measurement, Evaluation, and Theory
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CitationBarnett, Elizabeth. 2016. Physical Activity and Enjoyment: Measurement, Evaluation, and Theory. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
AbstractChildhood engagement in physical activity improves health and contributes to the sustainment of physical activity in adulthood. My dissertation research broadens scholarship by disentangling the effects of sports- vs. non-sports-focused summer camps on children’s physical activity and identifying modifiable activity characteristics contributing to physical activity enjoyment, an important predictor of physical activity sustainment. My work also challenges current discourse by presenting the analytical argument for bringing enjoyment research to the forefront of public health.
In Chapter 1, I hypothesize that children attending a sports camp spend more time in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) compared to children attending general day camps. Multivariable linear regression models estimated differences in percent of accelerometer-monitored time spent in MVPA. Children in the sports camp spent significantly more time in MVPA compared to children in a non-sports-oriented camp. This is the first study of its kind to use real data to document physical activity differences between sports and non-sports camps.
In Chapter 2, I investigate whether children in a sports camp experience higher enjoyment when the activity 1) is competitive, 2) has an active line or no line, 3) involves active coaches, 4) poses challenge, or 5) requires skill. Enjoyment scores were higher for competitive vs. non-competitive activities and those with higher perceived challenge and skill. Integrating challenging, competitive, and skill-building activities into sports camps is relatively simple, yet may have broad effects on children’s physical activity behavior.
Chapter 3 presents rationales for bringing enjoyment to the forefront of public health dialogue and action to increase physical activity in children. I outline five challenges that have limited physical activity enjoyment research and offer strategies for addressing them. While other fields have linked physical activity enjoyment with physical activity maintenance, the public health field rarely measures or incorporates enjoyment in epidemiologic, intervention, or theory research.
Increasing physical activity in childhood should be prioritized in public health. The findings and lessons from these chapters not only contribute new scientific evidence, but also have the potential to inform policies and programs that improve children’s relationship with and experiences of physical activity during childhood and across the life course.
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