Enjoyment Mediates Associations of the Physical and Family Environment With Adolescent Physical Activity: A Structural Equation Modeling Approach



      The purpose of this study was to examine the direct effects and mediating effect of physical activity (PA) enjoyment on the associations of the physical environment and family environment with adolescent PA behavior.


      Participants were US high school students who participated in the National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study (N = 11,429; 49.4% female). The dependent variable was a latent variable from 3 survey items indicating adolescent PA behavior. One set of independent variables were items of the physical environment and a second set of independent variables were items of the family environment. A latent PA enjoyment mediating variable was constructed within a weighted structural equation model to examine the standardized direct and indirect effects (IEs) of the physical and family environment variables with adolescent PA controlling for demographic covariates.


      Significant PA enjoyment mediating effects on adolescent PA were observed for the physical environment variables (IE range = 0.015–0.040) and adult transportation (IE = 0.013, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.006–0.020). The strongest direct effects were the associations between the family environment variables of adult PA encouragement (β = 0.11, 95% CI: 0.08–0.14), transportation (β = 0.14, 95% CI: 0.10–0.17), and watching (β = 0.12, 95% CI: 0.09–0.15) with adolescent PA.


      Stronger PA enjoyment mediating effects on adolescent PA were observed for variables of the physical environment compared to the family environment but the strongest direct effects on adolescent PA were observed for family environment variables. Interventions that provide equipment, improve neighborhood safety, and educate parents on how to support PA may both indirectly and directly improve adolescent PA.


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