Obesity is the most common health problem facing children today. It has been suggested that obese children have increased problems with self-esteem and depression when compared to the normal pediatric population. Research in exercise and depression is persuasively showing how exercise may be elemental in treating low self-esteem. Moderateexercise seems to be the most effective intensity in reducing depression and increasing levels of self-esteem. This literature review will illustrate what other researchers have found and concluded in a.) finding a relationship between self-esteem and obesity, b.) the effects of exercise on self-esteem, c.) studies on motivation among children, and d.) the need for more research.
Finding A RelationshipIn order to establish a relationship between obesity and self-esteem, a Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale was administered to 550 14 and 16 year old girls. Self-esteem scores were categorized by weight and weight by height. Scores on the Quetelet Index for Obesity were correlated with self-esteem scores. Mean self-esteem of the low-and-middle weight by height group was higher than the mean of the highweight group. In analyzing weight alone, the self-esteem of the middle-weight group was significantly higher than the self-esteem of the high-weight group. The correlation of the obesity index and self-esteem indicated that as weight increased, self-esteem decreased (Martin, Housley, & McCoy, 1988).
In another study, the relationship between obesity and self-esteem was examinedcross-sectionally and prospectively over three years in a cohort of 1278 adolescents in grades 7 to 9 at baseline. Cross-sectional analysis revealed an inverse association between physical appearance self-esteem and body mass index in both males and females. In females, body mass index was inversely associated with global self-esteem, close friendship, and behavioral conduct. In males, body mass index wasinversely associated with athletic and romantic appeal. These results suggest that low self-esteem may be an important factor in preventing or reversing obesity (French, Perry, Leon, & Fulkerson, 1996).
A study by Strauss supports data from Martin, Housely, and McCoy. Straus's data demonstrates that negative weight perceptions are particularly common among young adolescent white females, whichreveals that young obese adolescent females show the lowest levels of self-esteem. Nevertheless, negative perceptions of obesity also exist among adolescent boys. The data also demonstrates significant social consequences of decreasing self-esteem in obese children. Obese children with decreasing levels of self-esteem showed significantly elevated levels of loneliness, sadness, and nervousness.Although these efforts are not unique for obese children, they are nevertheless quite important because nearly 70% of white obese females demonstrated decreasing levels of self-esteem by early adolescence (Strauss, 2000).
Additional studies need to focus on whether positive family or social interactions can alleviate the negative psychosocial effects of adolescent obesity. Strauss concludes thatchildren with obese mothers, low family incomes, and lower cognitive stimulation have significantly higher risks of developing obesity, independent of other demographic and socio-economic factors. In contrast, increased rates of obesity in black children, children with lower family education, and non-professional parents may be mediated through the confounding effects of low income and lower levels ofcognitive stimulation (Strauss & Knight, 1999).
Effects of Exercise
The case for exercise and health has primarily been made on its impact on diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. However, there has been increasing research into the role of exercise in improving mental well-being, including global self-esteem.
Sufficient evidence now exists for the effectiveness...