Association of a Behaviorally Based High School Health Education Curriculum with Increased Exercise

James J. Annesi, Kennesaw State University
John Trinity, YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta
Nicole Mareno, Kennesaw State University
Stephanie M. Walsh, Emory University School of Medicine


Increasing exercise in children and adolescents through academic classes is an understudied area. Potential benefits include associated improvements in health, psychosocial, and quality-of-life factors. A sample of 98 students (M age = 14.3) from high school health education classes received six, 40-min lessons incorporating cognitive–behavioral methods to increase exercise over 6 weeks. Significant within-group improvements in exercise, mood, and body satisfaction were found, with slightly larger effect sizes identified for the boys. Increase in exercise was significantly associated with reduced mood distress (β = −.17, p < .001). For the girls only, change in body satisfaction significantly mediated that relationship, and a reciprocal relationship between changes in mood and body satisfaction was also identified. Incorporation of lessons emphasizing goal setting and self-regulation within high school health education classes may foster increased exercise and associated improvements in mood and body satisfaction. For girls, the positive effects may reinforce one another.