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This study investigated the mediating role of body mass index (BMI) in the relationship between physical activity and body esteem in adolescents. Nine hundred and five Hong Kong Chinese students aged 12–18 years participated in a cross-sectional study in 2007. Students’ BMI was computed as an indicator of their body composition. Their physical activity level and body esteem were examined using the Physical Activity Rating for Children and Youth (PARCY) and Body Esteem Scale (BES), respectively. Structural equation modelling was used to investigate the mediating effects of BMI and physical activity in predicting body esteem, with stratification by sex. The overall fit of the hypothesized models was satisfactory in boys (NFI = 0.94; NNFI = 0.88; CFI = 0.95; RMSEA = 0.07) and girls (NFI = 0.89; NNFI = 0.77; CFI = 0.91; RMSEA = 0.11). When BMI was considered as a mediator, higher physical activity had a significant negative total effect on body esteem in boys, but not in girls. The indirect effect of higher physical activity on body esteem via BMI was positive in boys, but negative in girls. Conclusions: Regular physical activity may help overweight adolescents, especially boys, improve their body esteem. Kinesiologists and health professionals could explore the use of physical activity prescriptions for weight management, aiming at body esteem improvement in community health programs for adolescents.


Institute for Health and Ageing

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Journal Article

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