University of Oulu

Mäkituomas, L., Heikkilä, L., Nurkkala, M. et al. Factors associated with body size perception among adolescent goal-oriented sports participants and non-participants: a cross-sectional Finnish study. BMC Public Health 22, 2188 (2022).

Factors associated with body size perception among adolescent goal-oriented sports participants and non-participants : a cross-sectional Finnish study

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Author: Mäkituomas, Leevi1,2,3; Heikkilä, Laura1,2,3; Nurkkala, Marjukka1,2,3;
Organizations: 1Department of Sports and Exercise Medicine, Oulu Deaconess Institute Foundation sr., P.O. Box 365, FI-90101, Oulu, Finland
2Center for Life Course Health Research, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 5000, FI-90014, Oulu, Finland
3Medical Research Center, University of Oulu and Oulu University Hospital, P.O. Box 8000, FI-90014, Oulu, Finland
4Sports Medicine Clinic, Foundation for Sports and Exercise Clinic, Mäkelänkatu 47, FI-00550, Helsinki, Finland
5Sports and Exercise Medicine Clinic, Central Finland Hospital Nova, Hoitajantie 3, FI-40620, Jyväskylä, Finland
6Paavo Nurmi Centre & Unit for Physical Activity and Health, University of Turku, Kiinamyllynkatu 10, FI-20520, Turku, Finland
7Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, P.O. Box 35, FI-40014, Jyväskylä, Finland
8Tampere Research Center of Sports Medicine, Kaupinpuistonkatu 1, FI-33500, Tampere, Finland
9Kuopio Research Institute of Exercise Medicine, Haapaniementie 16, FI-70100, Kuopio, Finland
10Department of Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine, Science Service Center, Kuopio University Hospital, P.O. Box 100, FI-70029 KYS, Kuopio, Finland
11Research Institute for Olympic Sports, Rautpohjankatu 6, FI-40700, Jyväskylä, Finland
12UKK Institute of Health Promotion Research, Kaupinpuistonkatu 1, FI-33500, Tampere, Finland
13Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology, Tampere University, Kalevantie 4, FI-33014, Tampere, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2022
Publish Date: 2023-06-08


Background: Regardless of competitive athletes’ body image pressures, only few studies have focused on adolescent sport participants’ body image and the findings are inconclusive. Furthermore, the role of competitive goals in sports on adolescents’ body size perception has not been studied. We examined the factors associated with adolescents’ competitive goals in sports and body size perception, and the associations between adolescents’ competitive goals in sports and body size perception.

Methods: The cross-sectional study consisted of 475 goal-oriented sports club participants and 936 reference youths (aged 14–16 years). The study questionnaire included multiple choice items on health behaviours, motives to exercise, competitive goals in sports and body size perception. The multinomial logistic regression analysis was used to investigate the associations.

Results: Adolescents with competitive goals in sports perceived their body size as about the right size more frequently than reference youths (68% vs 47%, p < 0.001 in girls; 74% vs 61%, p < 0.001 in boys). More than one-fourth of girls with competitive goals in sports perceived themselves as overweight, although only 7% of them were overweight. Adolescents with appearance/weight motives to exercise and poor perceived physical fitness had higher odds of perceived fatness. Additionally, BMI was positively associated with perceived fatness and negatively with perceived thinness. Having competitive goals in sports was not independently associated with perceived fatness or perceived thinness.

Conclusions: Adolescents’ BMI, appearance/weight motives to exercise, and perceived physical fitness were more strongly associated with body size perception than their competitive goals in sports. However, perceived fatness among girls with competitive goals in sports should be considered in organized sports.

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Series: BMC public health
ISSN: 1471-2458
ISSN-E: 1471-2458
ISSN-L: 1471-2458
Volume: 22
Issue: 1
Article number: 2188
DOI: 10.1186/s12889-022-14511-z
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3142 Public health care science, environmental and occupational health
Funding: This work was supported by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture (grant numbers 6/091/2011 and 28/626/2016), the Finnish Cultural Foundation, and the Juho Vainio Foundation. The funders had no role in the design of the study and collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and in writing the manuscript.
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