Health behavior interests of adolescents with unhealthy diet and exercise: implications for weight management

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Article, Peer-reviewed

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This study sought to determine individual factors that may influence adolescents' interests in various health behaviors and, by extension, their potential interest in programs that promote healthy lifestyles and reduce obesity. The sample consisted of 737 rural Pennsylvania (United States) middle and high school students not involved in either healthy exercise or dietary behaviors (a target group for health-promoting interventions). Participants completed a self-report measure of their general health functioning, including their interests in sports programs, outdoor recreation programs, weightlifting, weight loss and healthy eating/cooking. Nurses measured body mass indices (BMIs). The vast majority of the sample endorsed self-efficacy in healthy eating and physical activity, and this self-efficacy was associated with interest in a healthy diet and outdoor recreation. Interest in healthy activities was consistently higher among 7th graders (age mean = 12.6 years) than 11th graders (age mean = 16.3 years). Females were more interested in weight loss and healthy eating/cooking, whereas males were more interested in weightlifting. Higher BMI only predicted interest in weight loss. These results indicate that adolescent health interests vary on the basis of their gender, grade level, BMI and self-efficacy. These trends are potentially important to consider when seeking to match intervention programs to adolescent interests.

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