Exercise and self-esteem model: Validity in a sample of healthy female adolescents

Neha P. Gothe, Emily Erlenbach, Hermann-J. Engels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Low self-esteem is frequently identified as source of personality, anxiety and body image disorders among adolescent females. The Exercise Self-Esteem Model (EXSEM) is a framework that embodies the multidimensional and hierarchical structure of global self-esteem and its relationship to physical activity and has been effective in guiding the design of physical activity interventions. Although this model has been tested with a variety of populations, it remains to be validated in adolescent females. Additionally, we sought to expand the original model by investigating how additional parameters of body fat and cardiovascular fitness independently contributed to physical and global domains of self-esteem. Ninety-four adolescent females (Mage = 15.6 ± 1.7) completed validated measures of global self-esteem, physical self-esteem and physical self-efficacy. Participants completed the Physical Activity Questionnaire for Adolescents to quantify habitual physical activity levels. Objective physical measurements included height, weight, body fat and cardiovascular fitness. The newly proposed expanded-EXSEM model provided a good model-data fit tested using structural equation modeling (χ2 = 4.54 (p = .21), CFI = .99, RMSEA = 0.07, SRMR = 0.02) compared to the original EXSEM. Physical activity levels were significantly associated with both cardiovascular fitness and body fat and were a positive predictor of physical self-efficacy. Physical self-efficacy, cardiovascular fitness, and body fat were all predictors of physical self-esteem, which directly affected global self-esteem. Our data validates the expanded-EXSEM model in a sample of adolescent females and identifies targets for interventions to change global self-esteem as well as sub-domains of physical self-esteem. While changing fitness variables may be effective in targeting perceptions of body-esteem alone, physical activity participation still remains the primary determinant to bring about the cascade of positive changes in physical self-efficacy and self-esteem in this population.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8876-8884
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Psychology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Adolescent females
  • Body fat
  • Cardiovascular fitness
  • Exercise and self-esteem model
  • Physical activity
  • Self-efficacy
  • Self-esteem
  • Structural equation modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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