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PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e50782. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0050782. Epub 2012 Dec 5.

Changes in actual and perceived physical abilities in clinically obese children: a 9-month multi-component intervention study.

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Department of Biomedical Sciences, Motor Activities and Sport Sciences, University of Foggia, Foggia, Italy.



(1) To examine relationships among changes in physical activity, physical fitness and some psychosocial determinants of activity behavior in a clinical sample of obese children involved in a multi-component program; (2) to investigate the causal relationship over time between physical activity and one of its strongest correlates (i.e. perceived physical ability).


Self-reported physical activity and health-related fitness tests were administered before and after a 9-month intervention in 24 boys and 20 girls aged 8 to 11 years. Individuals' perceptions of strength, speed and agility were assessed using the Perceived Physical Ability Scale, while body image was measured using Collins' Child Figure Drawings.


Findings showed that body mass index, physical activity, performances on throwing and weight-bearing tasks, perceived physical ability and body image significantly improved after treatment among obese children. Gender differences were found in the correlational analyses, showing a link between actual and perceived physical abilities in boys, but not in girls. For the specific measurement interval of this study, perception of physical ability was an antecedent and not a potential consequence of physical activity.


Results indicate that a multi-component activity program not based merely on a dose-effect approach enhances adherence of the participants and has the potential to increase the lifelong exercise skills of obese children. Rather than focusing entirely on diet and weight loss, findings support the inclusion of interventions directed toward improving perceived physical ability that is predictive of subsequent physical activity.

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