Toward Active Living: SES- and Race-Based Disparities in Knowledge and Behaviors

  • Peng Zhang
  • Yang Liu
  • Xiangli Gu
  • Senlin ChenEmail author



The purpose of this study was to examine the potential differences in knowledge and behaviors related to active living between two schools with contrasting socioeconomic status (SES) and racial characteristics.


The sample involved 523 adolescents from two public middle schools in a southern US state including 243 Black (46.5%), 223 White (42.6%), and 67 others (12.8%). Physical activity (PA) and sedentary behavior (SB) were measured using the validated Youth Activity Profile (YAP), while knowledge of physical activity and fitness (PAF knowledge) was measured using the grade-appropriate PE Metrics written test. Socio-demographic characteristics were self-reported or obtained via secondary government database.


The medium SES school showed higher PA outside of school (ΔM = 0.27, d = 0.26), lower SB (ΔM = − 0.35, d = − 0.45), and higher PAF knowledge (ΔM = 8.3%, d = 0.54) than the low SES school. Statistically significant differences were observed for after-school PA, evening PA, weekend PA, TV viewing, video games, and cell phone use (d = − 0.38 to 0.39). Group difference by race was also found with White participants demonstrating higher PA outside of school, lower SB, and higher PAK knowledge than Black participants (d = − 0.43 to 0.57).


The lower SES school (mostly Black) showed less favorable PA, SB, and knowledge results than the higher SES school. SES is a significant school-level characteristic influencing the determinants (i.e., knowledge and behaviors) of the active living habit in youth.


Adolescent Ethnic minority Health disparity Middle school Public health 



We thank the four PE teachers, two principals, and all the participating students at the two anonymous schools for their contribution to this study. We also acknowledge the graduate and undergraduate students who devoted time to data collection.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© W. Montague Cobb-NMA Health Institute 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Health SciencesEast Stroudsburg UniversityEast StroudsburgUSA
  2. 2.School of KinesiologyLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  3. 3.Department of KinesiologyUniversity of Texas at ArlingtonArlingtonUSA

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