Data from a recent retrospective study published in Translational Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine supported a suggested link between memories of in-school physical education and adult sedentary behaviors.

Researchers utilized a retrospective survey to assess respondents’ perspectives on past physical education (PE) and their current attitudes, intentions, actual physical activity, and sedentary behaviors. The study population (N=1028) included 392 males and 636 females with an average age of 30.9±7. Participants were recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk (mTurk) and compensated. Survey questions investigated the participant’s affective attitude, cognitive attitude, and intentions toward physical activity. The participant population was representative of national demographics for race, ethnicity, and educational attainment.

The researchers separated best (n=592) or worst (n=599) responses regarding physical education memories and further delineated them into 3 higher order themes for best and 6 for worst. The thematic results for best responses were enjoyment (56%), physical competence (37%), and nonparticipation (7%). The thematic results for worst responses were embarrassment (34%), lack of enjoyment (18%), bullying (17%), injury (16%), social-physique anxiety (14%), and punishment (2%). Researchers divided these higher order themes into lower order themes.

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Correlational studies showed that physical education enjoyment as a child related to current overall attitude (r=0.37), affective attitude (r=0.40), cognitive attitude (r=0.23), intention (r=0.23), and sedentary time on the weekend (r=-0.14, P <.00001 for all). These studies showed embarrassment in PE as a child had associations with current attitudes (r=0.26) and intentions (r=0.18, P <.00001 for both). Being chosen first for teams infrequently had negative associations with current attitude (r=-0.25) and intention (r=-0.21, P <.00001 for both); however, it had positive associations with time spent sitting on the weekends (r=0.16, P <.00001). Lastly, being chosen last for teams often had adverse associations with current attitudes (r=-0.25) and intentions (r=-0.14, P <.00001 for both).

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Researchers identified limitations to the study that included its cross-sectional and correlational design, use of participant self-reporting, and the restrictive nature of questions on the closed-question portion of the survey. 

Results provide a link between physical activity and pleasure as a potential driver of subsequent behavioral decisions in the field of exercise science. The study provides an opportunity to translate results into practice in the field of exercise science.


Ladwig MA, Vazou S, Ekkekakis P. My Best Memory Is When I was Done with It: PE memories Are Associated with Adult Sedentary Behavior [Published online August 15, 2018]. Translational J of ACSM. doi: 10.1249/TJX.0000000000000067