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Physical activity levels and patterns of 11-14 year-old Turkish adolescents.

INTRODUCTION

Physical activity is associated with increased risk of a wide variety of diseases such as cardiovascular, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and depression (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1996). It has been noted that these diseases seldom manifest themselves before adulthood. However, promotion of physical activity may be important since inactivity may also predispose individuals to a future sedentary lifestyle which leads to an increase risk for these diseases (Rowland, 1990).

It is known that physical activity has positive effects on the physiological and psychological well-being of children and adolescents, and believed to be important to the development and maintenance of health-related behavior patterns that will carry over into adulthood (Anderssen & Wold, 1992). The benefits of being physically active are also thought to extend to psychological and sociological realms. Sport and exercise participation is often linked with such characteristics as attitudes and self-perceptions (Asci, 2003; Asci, Kosar, & Kin-Isler, 2001) and with social interpersonal patterns (Sallis, Prochaska, & Taylor, 2000).

Descriptive epidemiological studies of physical activity have consistently indicated that physical activity declines with age. It has been reported that physical activity is inversely associated with age in studies of children (Sallis, Prochaska, & Taylor, 2000; Trost, Pate, Sallis, Freedson, Taylor, Dowda, & Sirard, 2002) adolescents (Caspersen, Pereira, & Curran, 2000; Trost et al., 2002), and in adults (Caspersen et al., 2000; Telema & Yang, 2000). In addition, cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of habitual physical activity during childhood and adolescence confirm the subjective impression that regular exercise diminishes with age. For instance, in a longitudinal study by Telama and Yang (2000) that investigated the decline in physical activity between the ages of 9 to 27 in Finland, a remarkable decline in physical activity level was observed after the age of 12. In a cross-sectional study by Caspersen, Pereira, and Curran (2000) it was found that physical activity patterns eroded most from ages 15 through 18, and regular vigorous activity declined consistently from age 12 in the United States. Similarly Trost and colleagues (2002) reported a significant inverse relationship with age and daily moderate and vigorous physical activity level in students through grade twelve.

Research also indicates higher physical activity of males as compared to females. Most of the published data from different countries reported that boys are more active than girls (Caspersen et al., 2000; Telama & Yang, 2000; Riddoch, Andersen, Wedderkopp, Harro, Klasson-Heggebo, Sardinha, Cooper, & Ekelund, 2004; Van Mechelen, Twisk, Post, Snel, & Kemper, 2000). One of the reasons for this gender difference may be that there are fewer opportunities for girls to participate in sports or regular exercise (Wells, 1991). In addition it has been indicated that regular participation in sports and exercise are behaviors that are heavily influenced by observation of others who model these behaviors and by social reinforcement (Bandura, 1977; Godin & Shephard, 1986). Physically active role modeling by parents and parental support and encouragement for physical activity are consistent correlates of children's physical activity (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1996; Sallis et al. 2000). Until recently women were far less likely to participate in sports and exercise.

Despite these gender differences, differences in the age-related decline in physical activity among adolescents are controversial. For example, Sallis (1993) reported that the rate of decline in physical activity is greater for girls. In contrast, recent studies (Caspersen et al., 2000; Telama & Yang, 2000; Van Mechelen et al., 2000) indicate that the rate of decline is higher in boys. This may be explained by different activity pattern selections across gender. Trost and colleagues (2002) indicated that boys participate more in vigorous activities while girls prefer moderate-to-low activities. With increasing age, boys prefer moderate- or low-activity patterns, while girls continue to participate in moderate-to-low activities (Trost et al., 2002; Van Mechelen et al., 2000) which may be the reason for the greater decline in the physical activity level of boys as compared with girls.

Another factor related to the decline in physical activity in youth is age and gender differences in various types of physical activity patterns (e.g., low, moderate, and vigorous). Caspersen, Pereira, and Curran (2000) reported that regular vigorous activities show consistent erosion from ages 12 through 21, and that during adolescence the gender difference in physical activity patterns was largest in regular vigorous activities. Similarly, Trost et al. (2002) revealed that boys performed more physical activity bouts than girls in both moderate-to-vigorous and vigorous physical activity, indicating a gender difference in physical activity patterns during childhood.

Although age and gender differences in physical activity level have been well documented, all of the research has been done in Western Cultures. In Turkey, physical activity opportunities are different for males and females. Sport and leisure activities are not part of the lifestyle of the majority of the Turkish population, especially for girls and women, and varies considerably in various regions of Turkey. Fasting and Pfister (1997) reported that at least some parts of Turkey are changing in that the younger generation is more active in sports. In addition, parents encourage their children to participate in sports. However, due to different cultural expectations, participation in regular sports and exercise may be limited for Turkish girls and women. To our knowledge no studies have examined age and gender differences in physical activity level of adolescents in Turkey. By exploring age and gender differences in physical activity levels and patterns of adolescents in a country in which physical activity and sport is less valued, particularly for girls, we sought to obtain a clear picture of the situation which would help in the development of new public health policies in Turkey.

METHOD

Participants

The sample consisted of 650 girls ([M.sub.age] = 12.66, SD = 1.06) and 666 boys ([M.sub.age] = 12.69, SD = 1.05), middle class 11- 14-year-old secondary school children from seven randomly selected schools in Ankara, Turkey, who regularly participated in two hours of physical education classes per week as part of a national curriculum; 20.5% of girls and 37.7% of boys reported regular participation in organized sport at school and clubs.

Instruments

Physical activity level was determined by a Weekly Activity Checklist. Children marked on the list the activity types performed each day. Duration of the activity was not considered in scoring, except that all activities had to be at least 15 minutes. The activities are arranged in groups of low (scored 3 Metabolic Equivalents), moderate (scored 5 Metabolic Equivalents), and vigorous intensity (scored 9 Metabolic Equivalents). Six activities on the weekly activity checklist were classified as low-intensity (walking, four-square, gymnastics, and volleyball). Eight activities were classified as moderate-intensity (dancing, climbing, tennis, badminton, basketball, table tennis, and frisbee), and the remaining nine activities were considered vigorous-intensity (jumping rope, push-ups, jogging-running, soccer, skateboarding, ice skating, swimming, bicycling, handball, and aerobic-step). The known Metabolic Equivalent level for each activity was multiplied by the frequency (number of days) of that activity and then summed. Thus a physical activity score (MET) was calculated for each subject for a week. In the current study, the one-week test-retest reliability was assessed with 81 participants ([M.sub.age] = 12.80; SD = 0.88) as a pilot study. The obtained test-retest reliability coefficient for the total MET score was 0.67, indicating an acceptable reliability. The 7-day physical activity recall has been studied extensively and been validated against mechanical activity monitoring in adults and children (Miller, Freedson, & Kline, 1994).

Procedure

Consent was obtained from the Ministry of National Education and the administrations of the participating schools. Information was given to the participants about the study, and verbal and visual instructions about how to respond to questionnaires were provided. A demographic questionnaire consisting of questions about gender, age, sport participation status, and Weekly Activity Checklist were administered to all participants in their physical education class.

Data Analysis

A 2 x 4 (Gender x Age) Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) was used to test gender and age differences in physical activity level of the adolescents. Univariate post hoc follow-up F tests were also used to analyze any significant main and interaction effects.

RESULTS

Descriptive statistics of physical activity level with regard to gender and age are presented in Table 1.

A 2 x 4 (Gender x Age) MANOVA revealed an overall significant main effect of gender (Hotellings [T.sup.2] = .08, [F.sub.(3, 747)] = 19.18; p < .01) and age (Hotellings [T.sup.2] = .06, [F.sub.(9, 2237)] = 5.04; p < .01) on the physical activity level of adolescents. On the other hand, Gender x Age interaction effect (Hotellings [T.sup.2] = .01, [F.sub.(9,2237)] = 0.89; p > .01) was not significant.

A significant main effect of age could be attributed to all physical activity MET categories--low ([F.sub.(3,756)] = 4.02; p < .01); moderate ([F.sub.(3.756)] = 4.67; p < .01; vigorous ([F.sub.(3,756)] = 3.48; p < .01)--and total physical activity MET scores ([F.sub.(3,756)] = 3.59; p < .01). Based on pairwise comparisons, as age increased, the low physical activity MET scores increased and 14-year-old students had higher low physical activity MET values than the other three age groups. On the other hand, on moderate activity MET categories, the mean scores of 11-year-olds were higher than those of older age groups. For vigorous and total physical activity MET scores, pairwise comparisons revealed similar findings in which 11-year-olds scored higher than 12- and 13-year-old students, and also 14-year-olds scored higher than 12- and 13-year olds (Figure 1).

Follow-up univariate analysis indicated significant differences in moderate ([F.sub.(1,756)] = 9.40; p < .01), vigorous ([F.sub.(l,756)]; p < .01) physical activity MET values and total MET scores per week ([F.sub.(1,756)] = 29.08; p < .01) between boys and girls favoring boys (Figure 2).

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

DISCUSSION

The present study was designed to determine age and gender differences in physical activity level and in various physical activity patterns of 11- 14-year-old Turkish adolescents.

The findings indicated significant age differences in self-reported physical activity level. It was found that 11-year-old adolescents had higher physical activity levels than their 12-13 and 14-year-old counterparts. This finding is not surprising and supports most of the studies that reported an age-related decline in physical activity level during adolescence (Caspersen et al., 2000; Telema & Yang, 2000). For instance, Telama and Yang (2000) reported a significant age-related decline in physical activity of Finnish adolescents starting with age 12, and that the most rapid decline in self-reported physical activity was observed between the ages 12 and 15. Similarly, Caspersen et al. (2000) indicated an age-related decline among U.S. adolescents starting with age 12 and eroding most from ages 15 to 18.

In addition, when different physical activity patterns were taken into consideration, the findings of the present study indicated a significant increase in participation in low physical activities with age, while participation in moderate physical activity patterns showed a decline with age. For low physical activity patterns 14-year-old adolescents had the highest MET scores, and for moderate physical activity patterns, 11-year-old adolescents had the highest scores. For the vigorous physical activity patterns, on the other hand, it was found that MET scores were the highest at age 11, then declined at ages 12 and 13, and then surprisingly increased at age 14; 14-year-old adolescents had higher low physical activity participation compared with other age groups. The decline in vigorous and moderate physical activity patterns and increase in low physical activity patterns explains the age-related decline in total physical activity of Turkish adolescents in the present study. Similarly it has been noted that most of the decline in physical activity during adolescence is due to decreases in participation in nonorganized sport and vigorous physical activity (Sallis, 2000), and increases in sedentary behaviors such as spending more time on PC games and watching television (Sallis et al., 2000). In addition, changes in physical activity motivation with increasing age has also been reported (Telama & Yang, 2000) in that social and competitive motivation was found to decrease while recreational motivation increased, which can lead to a decline in physical activity and different physical activity preferences with age and, in turn, might be one of the reasons for Turkish adolescents' decline in physical activity level. As expected, it was found that boys were more active than girls in total physical activity level and in moderate and vigorous physical activity patterns. In the present study, it was found that the reason girls have lower total physical activity is their significantly lower participation in moderate and vigorous activities. Most of the literature has reported similar findings. In a cross-sectional study, Trost et al. (2002) evaluated age and gender differences in physical activity level of youth in the U.S. and also found that boys were more active than girls and participated more in vigorous activities. In addition, in another cross-sectional study on physical activity level and sport participation of Turkish adolescents, it was found that self-reported physical activity levels of boys were higher than that of girls (Kocak, Harris, Kin-Isler, & Cicek, 2002). Furthermore, findings of Van Mechelen et al. (2000) in a longitudinal study partially supported the findings of the present study. They evaluated physical activity behavior of Dutch youth over a 15-year period which began at age 13 and ended at age 27. Similarly they found that during adolescence boys were more active than girls and participated more in vigorous activities. On the other hand, in contrast to the findings of the present study, girls were found to participate more in moderate activities than did boys. Numerous reasons can be postulated for the higher physical activity levels of boys. In Turkey the characteristics of sensitivity, nurturance, and interdependence are typically expected from girls and women while boys and men are expected to be independent and autonomous. In addition, parents encourage their daughters to be dependent and obedient, whereas sons are allowed to be more aggressive and independent because they are expected to cope with the outside world (Ataca, Sunar, & Kagitcibaci, 1994). Beside differences in cultural expectations, physical activity opportunities are different for boys in Turkey. As noted, sport and leisure activities are not part of the lifestyle of the majority of Turkish girls and the value of physical activity or sport is not well understood. Turkish parents may prevent their daughters from engaging in sports, especially from vigorous activities as a means of protection. All of the above reasons may limit participation of Turkish adolescent girls in vigorous physical activity. The finding of the present study underscore the need for physical activity interventions for girls in Turkey.

The present study has some limitations. One was the use of a self-report questionnaire. It is known that, in general, such questionnaires can have only modest validity in relation to energy expenditure. What these questionnaires can measure is participation in physical activity. According to Telama and Yang (2000), measurement of participation in physical activity during childhood and adolescence has practical predictive validity. Furthermore, as noted the questionnaire used in the present study had a reliability coefficient of 0.67 which indicates that physical activity measurement is at the acceptable reliability. In addition, this study is cross-sectional, which evaluated age and gender differences in physical activity level and patterns of 11- to 14-year old adolescents. Its cross-sectional nature and age group are other limitations to the study's generalizability.

CONCLUSION

The findings of this study indicated an age-related decline in physical activity level, an increase in participation in low level activities, and a decrease in moderate and vigorous activities. In addition it was found that boys were more active than girls and participated more in moderate and vigorous activities. From these findings it is clear that female adolescents need to be more involved in physical activities. Thus, Turkish sport specialists and physical education teachers encourage parents to provide opportunities for Turkish adolescents, especially for girls, to participate in physical activities and sport. In addition, since this is a cross-sectional study, further longitudinal research is recommended to determine age and gender differences and changes in physical activity level and patterns of Turkish adolescents and to track physical activity levels and patterns from adolescence to adulthood.

REFERENCES

Anderssen, N., & Wold, B. (1992). Parental and peer influences on leisure-time physical activity in young adolescents. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 63, 341-348.

Asci, F. H. (2003). The effects of physical fitness training on trait anxiety and physical self-concept of female university students. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 4, 255-264.

Asci, F. H., Kosar, S. N., & Kin-Isler, A. (2001). The relationship of self-concept and perceived athletic competence to physical activity level and gender among Turkish early adolescents. Adolescence, 36, 499-507.

Ataca, B., Sunar, D., & Kagitcibasi, C. (1994). Variance infertility due to sex-related differentiation in child-rearing practices. Paper presented at the 12th International Congress of Cross-Cultural Psychology, Pamplona, Spain.

Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Caspersen, C. J., Pereira, M. A., & Curran, K. M. (2000). Changes in physical activity patterns in the United States, by sex and cross-sectional age. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 32, 1601-1609.

Fasting, K., & Pfister, G. (1997). Opportunities and barriers for sport for women in Turkey: A pilot study. Unpublished manuscript. Berlin/Oslo.

Godin, G., & Shephard, R. J. (1986). Psychological factors influencing intentions to exercise of young students from grades 7 to 9. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 57, 41-52.

Kocak, S., Harris, M. B., Kin-Isler, A., & Cicek, S. (2002). Physical activity level, sport participation, and parental education levels in Turkish junior high school students. Pediatric Exercise Science, 14, 147-154.

Miller, D. J., Freedson, P. S., & Kline, G. M. (1994). Comparison of activity levels using the Caltrac accelerometer and five questionnaires. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 26, 376-382.

Riddoch, C. J., Andersen, L. B., Wedderkopp, N., Harro, M., Klasson-Heggebo, L., Sardinha, L. B., Cooper, A. R., & Ekelund, U. (2004). Physical activity levels and patterns of 9- and 15-year-old European Children. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 36, 86-92.

Rowland, T. W. (1990). Exercise and children's health. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Books.

Sallis, J. F. (1993). Epidemiology of physical activity and fitness in children and adolescents. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 33, 403-408.

Sallis, J. F. (2000). Age-related decline in physical activity: A synthesis of human and animal studies. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 32, 1598-1600.

Sallis, J. F., Condon, S., Goggin, K., Rooby, J., Kolody, B., & Alcaraz, J. (1993). The development of self-administered physical activity surveys for 4th grade students. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 64, 25-31.

Sallis, J. F., Prochaska, J. J., & Taylor, W. C. (2000). A review of correlates of physical activity of children and adolescents. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 32, 963-975.

Telama, R., & Yang, X. (2000). Decline of physical activity from youth to young adulthood in Finland. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 32, 1617-1622.

Trost, S. G., Pate, R. R., Sallis, J. F., Freedson, P. S., Taylor, W. C., Dowda, M., & Sirard, J. (2002). Age and gender differences in objectively measured physical activity in youth. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 34, 350-355.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (1996). Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Chronic Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Van Mechelen, W., Twisk, J. W. R., Post, G. B., Snel, J., & Kemper, H. C. G. (2000). Physical activity of young people: The Amsterdam longitudinal growth and health study. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 32, 1610-1616.

Wells, C. (1991). Women, sport and performance: A physiological perspective (2nd ed.) Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Books.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Ayse Kin-Isler, Baskent University, Sport Sciences Department, Eskisekir Yolu 20 km.06810/Ankara, Turkey. E-mail: akislera@baskent.edu.tr
Table 1: Physical activity scores of Turkish 11-14 years old students
with regard to age and gender

Variables 11 years 12 years
 n=208 n=385

 M SD M SD

Low Activity MET/ week
 Girls 14.16 12.02 15.36 12.05
 Boys 13.95 11.86 15.11 10.64
 Total 14.06 11.90 15.23 11.33
Moderate Activity MET/ week
 Girls 22.56 19.24 19.50 17.71
 Boys 30.94 26.72 2,201 16.89
 Total 26.56 23.41 20.79 17.30
Vigorous Activity MET/week
 Girls 79.59 62.16 57.35 41.99
 Boys 103.50 78.02 91.06 56.85
 Total 91.02 70.93 74.59 52.80
Total MET/week
 Girls 116.30 83.20 91.22 61.00
 Boys 148.39 98.00 128.18 71.53
 Total 131.63 91.65 110.61 68.84

Variables 13 years 14 years
 n=345 n=378

 M SD M SD

Low Activity MET/ week
 Girls 15.40 11.12 19.24 11.29
 Boys 14.65 10.02 16.51 12.69
 Total 15.03 10.57 17.78 11.03
Moderate Activity MET/ week
 Girls 18.74 16.41 19.34 14.37
 Boys 21.34 17.16 21.91 14.67
 Total 20.04 16.79 20.72 14.55
Vigorous Activity MET/week
 Girls 65.75 49.63 73.33 62.76
 Boys 88.33 67.73 103.38 68.39
 Total 77.04 60.29 89.48 67.39
Total MET/week
 Girls 99.88 68.57 111.92 74.86
 Boys 124.32 82.60 141.81 78.56
 Total 112.10 76.70 127.98 78.13

Variables Total
 n=1316

 M SD

Low Activity MET/ week
 Girls 16.18 11.72
 Boys 15.22 10.72
 Total 15.69 11.12
Moderate Activity MET/ week
 Girls 19.84 16.85
 Boys 23.30 18.61
 Total 21.60 17.84
Vigorous Activity MET/week
 Girls 67.96 54.42
 Boys 96.12 66.93
 Total 82.32 62.69
Total MET/week
 Girls 103.98 71.59
 Boys 134.64 81.40
 Total 119.61 78.22
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Author:Kin-Isler, Ayse; Asci, F. Hulya; Altintas, Atakan; Guven-Karahan, Bengu
Publication:Adolescence
Geographic Code:7TURK
Date:Dec 22, 2009
Words:3677
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