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How Does Physical Activity Intervention Improve Self-Esteem and Self-Concept in Children and Adolescents? Evidence from a Meta-Analysis

Liu, M. Wu, L. Ming, Q.
Plos One
Objective To perform a systematic review and meta-analysis for the effects of physical activity intervention on self-esteem and self-concept in children and adolescents, and to identify moderator variables by meta-regression. Design A meta-analysis and meta-regression. Method Relevant studies were identified through a comprehensive search of electronic databases. Study inclusion criteria were: (1) intervention should be supervised physical activity, (2) reported sufficient data to estimate pooled effect sizes of physical activity intervention on self-esteem or self-concept, (3) participants' ages ranged from 3 to 20 years, and (4) a control or comparison group was included. For each study, study design, intervention design and participant characteristics were extracted. R software (version 3.1.3) and Stata (version 12.0) were used to synthesize effect sizes and perform moderation analyses for determining moderators. Results Twenty-five randomized controlled trial (RCT) studies and 13 non-randomized controlled trial (non-RCT) studies including a total of 2991 cases were identified. Significant positive effects were found in RCTs for intervention of physical activity alone on general self outcomes (Hedges' g = 0.29, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.14 to 0.45; p = 0.001), self-concept (Hedges' g = 0.49, 95% CI: 0.10 to 0.88, p = 0.014) and self-worth (Hedges' g = 0.31, 95% CI: 0.13 to 0.49, p = 0.005). There was no significant effect of intervention of physical activity alone on any outcomes in non-RCTs, as well as in studies with intervention of physical activity combined with other strategies. Meta-regression analysis revealed that higher treatment effects were associated with setting of intervention in RCTs (beta = 0.31, 95% CI: 0.07 to 0.55, p = 0.013). Conclusion Intervention of physical activity alone is associated with increased self-concept and self-worth in children and adolescents. And there is a stronger association with school-based and gymnasium-based intervention compared with other settings.

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Type of intervention

Preventive- and Promotive Health Interventions


Development and Life Coping Skills



Public Health Interventions

Physical Activity

Age group

Preschool Aged Children (3-5 years)

School Aged Children (6-12 years)

Adolescents (13-18 years)

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