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Public Health Nurs. 2008 Sep-Oct;25(5):451-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1446.2008.00729.x.

Social support for physical activity of middle school students.

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Michigan State University College of Nursing, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.



To explore gender and age differences in social support and their relationship with physical activity.


This cross-sectional study with enhanced reliability due to repeated measures involved 105 boys and 101 girls.


Information on sources and forms of social support, as well as physical activity, was obtained from students, who completed the same questionnaire twice, 2 weeks apart.


Boys, compared with girls, were more likely to name fathers and less likely to identify sisters. Compared with older boys, older girls were less likely to identify fathers. Older girls were less likely than both younger girls and older boys to name brothers. Students who identified fathers reported more minutes and days of physical activity and had a stronger physical activity self-definition than those who did not name fathers. Students who selected peers and sisters had more minutes of physical activity and a stronger physical activity self-definition, respectively, than those who did not name peers and sisters. Transportation and encouragement were related to physical activity.


Gender differences in social support are not uniform across age groups. Awareness of these differences can inform the development of appropriate physical activity programs.

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