Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Spyridoula Vazou


BACKGROUND: Physical fitness testing in physical education (PE) is mandatory in several US states, based on the promise that testing will "assist students in establishing lifelong habits of regular physical activity." However, in actuality, the influence of fitness practice for testing, as commonly implemented in schools, on motivational outcomes remains largely unknown. Modifying the experience of fitness practice testing by translating psychological theory into practice may represent untapped potential in the effort to promote physical activity in childhood. Thus, the purpose of the present study is to examine the effect of different structures of fitness practice (traditional versus needs supporting lessons) on affect and motivational outcomes, as well as the moderating role of BMI and self-perceptions.

METHODS: Using a within-subject experimental design, the present study measured pre-post changes on two 20 to 30-minute PE lessons of fitness practice (traditional versus novel): one simulated traditional testing (using standard FITNESSGRAM instructions) whereas the other ("novel") emphasized positive peer interactions and alternative ways of delivering the same tasks. The dependent variables were positive affect (Feeling Scale), arousal (Felt Arousal Scale), body related emotions (Body Esteem Scale), enjoyment (PACES), intention, and need satisfaction (Activity Feeling States Scale). The sample consisted of 148 students in 4th 5th and 6th grade (119 normal-weight, 29 overweight; 77 female), recruited from two schools in Central Iowa. Physical activity during both PE lessons was measured by accelerometers (Sensewear Armbands), and BMI records were obtained from the schools.

RESULTS: The present study found that affective responses and motivation differed overall between the two fitness practice lessons, even though the volume of physical activity was the same. This effect was partially moderated by BMI and physical self-perceptions. Children reported significantly higher levels of affect at the conclusion of the non-traditional fitness practice, as well as increased levels of enjoyment, arousal, perceived competence and autonomy, and were more likely to choose the non-traditional lesson again. BMI played a significant moderating role in arousal, social competence in affect, and physical self-perceptions in enjoyment, with beneficial scores for the non-traditional lesson. Results did not show significant differences between the two lessons on perceived relatedness.

CONCLUSION: Overall, the novel lesson was more enjoyable, resulting in a more attractive option for fitness practice for children. The present findings suggest that an alternative approach to traditional fitness practice might be beneficial for all children, as well as those with low physical self-perceptions and social competence. Those benefits can be seen in increases in affect and motivational outcomes. An approach like this may lead to higher levels of physical activity in the future. These results highlight the potential impact of translating extant psychological research into practice in PE settings.


Copyright Owner

Amanda Beth Mischo



File Format


File Size

98 pages

Included in

Kinesiology Commons