Exercise as it relates to Disease/Importance of social support in youth to enhance physical activity

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The following Wikibooks page is a critical analysis and fact sheet for the journal article “Social Support for Youth Physical Activity: importance of sibling, parents, friends and social support across a segmented school day”

What is the background to this research?[edit | edit source]

Childhood overweight and obesity is a growing public health concern in Australia and also globally both in developing and developed nations. It reflects the abnormal or excessive fat accumulation in the body [1] that is a major contributor to other significant preventable health risks. Obesity and overweight affects approximately 41 million children worldwide[2] and of that 1 in 4 Australian children are either overweight or obese.[3]

Exercise and Physical activity is one of the most accessible, cost efficient and effective interventions for reducing childhood obesity. Studies have indicated that playtime during a regular school day and organised afterschool physical activity are the two main circumstances in which children have the opportunity to take part in physical activity during a segmented school day[4]. Due to the alarming increasing rates of childhood obesity, this particular article exploring the impact of social support in promoting physical activity amongst youth is an invaluable resource in developing intervention plans to help combat childhood obesity and overweight rates.

Where is the research from?[edit | edit source]

This study was conducted by Maea Hohepa Principal Analyst, for Research and Development at Generosity New Zealand.[5] The study examined the impact of social support on 3471 participants across 7 low socioeconomic schools located across South Auckland, New Zealand. The topic explored within the article has had significant increase in interest within the last decade due to frightening increases in childhood obesity rates and the need for intervention. Not only do we need to encourage increased participation in physical activity, but the importance of where the encouragement is coming from is becoming increasingly important.  

What kind of research was this?[edit | edit source]

The article is self-report study examining the cross-sectional sample of 12-18year old high school students from across 7 different across South Auckland. The selection criteria for the study were based off the individuals having to have come from low socio-economic high schools. The physical activity, perceived encouragement and demographic variables were collected using an electronic self-report questionnaire administered during designated class time. The individuals were asked their rate perceived encouragement from the specific support groups and rated it as either ‘high’ or ‘low’ for each of the activities throughout the day.[6]

What did the research involve?[edit | edit source]

The research involved surveying 3 471 students that were categorized into 2 groups; Junior student’s (Years 9,10 and 11) and Senior student’s (years 12 and 13). From this participants were then further categorised based on their family situation, age, gender and ethnicity. Participants had to respond to surveys on 3 different aspects of potential physical activity levels during 3 possible stages of the school day; active transportation to and from school, lunchtime activity and after school activity. From the data gathered participants were then categorised into ‘active’ or ‘less active’ based on their responses.

Additionally, the participants had to self-survey their perception of perceived encouragement from parents, family, friends and their school in regards to the 3 aspects of physical activity times. Participants were either grouped into ‘high’ or ‘low’ category based of their perceived level of support.  Using binary logistics regression both univariate and multivariate analyses was conducted to calculate the odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals. Both univariate and multivariate models were adjusted by sex [6].

A major limitation’s of this study includes the reliability and validity of the test results. It is important that when the tests are performed across the same population group it produces consistent results and is measuring what is intended[7].  Variability within results can occur due to individuals different interpretations of the questionnaire, as we as the difference between individuals understanding of their levels of perceive encouragement i.e. someone’s opinion of high encouragement can differ from individual to individual.

What were the basic results?[edit | edit source]

A key novel finding of this study emphasized the importance of encouragement from various sources was highly dependent on the time specific activity examined. Based on the results retrieved from this study it has been highlighted that low support from both parents and peers were associated with reduced odds of being regularly active after school. For lunchtime activity, low peer support was associated with a reduction in odds of being categorised as active. On the other hand, no variables were significantly related to increase in active transportation among senior students, whereas low peer support was associated with reduction in odds of actively transporting to school particularly evident amongst the junior students. Furthermore, irrespective of the activity examined, there was no significant difference noted for students receiving high support from two parents than students reporting high support from their sole parent in a single parent family. [6]

What conclusions can we take from this research?[edit | edit source]

Based on their results from the report it is evident that the social support individuals receive in regards to physical activity is highly important for increasing their participation in regular physical activity. In particular, it was highly evident that the influence of support was better perceived within the junior age group especially within the areas of active transport to school and lunchtime physical activity. This may be due to their immaturity and inability to make decisions for themselves or their reliance on parents and friends to tell them what to do.  Similarly, the junior age group is more susceptible to peer pressure/ more likely to do what their friends are doing and thus as a result are more susceptible to either participate or not participate physical activity purely based on whether their friends are involved or not.

To gather further insight into the social effects of physical activity levels in youth, it would be relevant to gather more in depth information on gender differences as well as ask more specific questions to assess the impact of school encouragement on its effectiveness in increasing physical activity levels. 

The findings from this study, align with other research in this area reinforcing that positive social support from parental figures, peers and the school environment are beneficial in increasing youths physical activity levels[8].[9] However, there could be more extensive research into the gender differences in participation levels and the response from external support networks in decreasing the gap in gender participation differences. 

Practical Advice?[edit | edit source]

The research undertaken in this study is growing in importance due the alarmingly increasing rate of childhood obesity. This study and many other studies that explore similar topics are becoming more relevant within society to implement prevention strategies in order to combat childhood obesity. The research into intervention strategies such as increasing support for youth to complete physical activity is one method to increase physical activity rates.

Further research articles are coincide with this reading reinforcing the importance of social support from a range of sources in promoting physical activity within youth. For further articles in support of this research read below:

  • Parental Social Support and the Physical Activity-Related Behaviors of Youth: A Review


  • The role of social support on physical activity behaviour in adolescent girls: a systematic review and meta-analysis


  • Physical activity in adolescents: analysis of the social influence of parents and friends


References[edit | edit source]

  1. . Childhood Overweight And Obesity [Internet]. Aihw.gov.au. 2014 [cited 10 September 2018]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/da014fb0-b424-4743-bb47-05782f21aa2b/6_6-childhood-weight.pdf.aspx
  2. Childhood overweight and obesity [Internet]. World Health Organization. 2016 [cited 12 September 2018]. Available from: http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/childhood/en/
  3. Overweight & obesity Overview - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [Internet]. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2018 [cited 9 September 2018]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-statistics/behaviours-risk-factors/overweight-obesity/overview
  4. Mia Pradinuk R. Obesity and physical activity in children [Internet]. PubMed Central (PMC). 2002 [cited 11 September 2018]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3135442/
  5. LinkedIn [Internet]. LinkedIn. 2018 [cited 11 September 2018]. Available from: https://au.linkedin.com/in/maea-hohepa-ba738575
  6. a b c Hohepa M, Scragg R, Schofield G, Kolt G, Schaaf D. Social support for youth physical activity: Importance of siblings, parents, friends and school support across a segmented school day. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity [Internet]. 2007 [cited 14 September 2018];4(1):54. Available from: https://ijbnpa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1479-5868-4-54
  7. Hoskin R. The dangers of self-report - Science Brainwaves [Internet]. Science Brainwaves. 2012 [cited 11 September 2018]. Available from: http://www.sciencebrainwaves.com/the-dangers-of-self-report/
  8. Mendonca G, Cheng L, Melo E, de Farias Junior J. Physical activity and social support in adolescents: a systematic review. Health Education Research. 2014;29(5):822-839.
  9. Petrus R. Running Head: Activity-Based Learning Using Activity-Based Instructional Approaches in Electric Circuits. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences [Internet]. 2014 [cited 13 September 2018];. Available from: http://www.ori.org/files/static_page_files/SupportPA.pdf