DOI: 10.1249/mss.0000000000003422 ISSN: 1530-0315

Determinants of Change in Physical Activity in Children During the Transition from Elementary to High School

Russell R. Pate, Marsha Dowda, Rod K. Dishman, Ruth P. Saunders, Kerry L. Cordan, Emily R. Shull, Agnes G. Bucko, Natalie Colabianchi
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine



Effective public health interventions targeting factors that influence physical activity are urgently needed to reduce the age-related decline in physical activity in youth. The purpose of this study was to identify associations between physical activity and a set of potential influences on physical activity in children as they transition from elementary to high school.


Participants were 951 children from South Carolina school districts who completed outcome and independent variable measures on at least two time points from the 5th through 11th grades in 2010 − 2017. The primary outcome variable was physical activity, measured by accelerometry. Independent variables included a comprehensive set of variables in the child, parent/home, school, and community domains. Children, parents and school administrators, and staff completed questionnaires to assess psychosocial and home, school, and neighborhood environmental influences. Growth curve analyses identified independent variables associated with physical activity over time, either as a main effect or as an interaction with age.


As main effects, self-efficacy, self-schema, sport participation, weekday outdoor hours, importance of child participating in sports and physical activity, safe to play outside, and Physical Activity Resource Assessment weighted score were positively associated with physical activity. The associations between physical activity and enjoyment motivation, appearance motivation, weekend outdoor time, and home equipment exhibited significant interactions with age. Enjoyment motivation influenced physical activity during the earlier years, whereas the remaining three variables influenced physical activity in the later years.


Interventions should target multiple domains of influences that may vary by age.

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