Background: An important topic regarding school health is to investigate the factors affecting students’ participation in physical activity inside and outside of school. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the relationship between perceived competence as one of the basic psychological needs and the physical activity of male and female middle school students inside and outside school, considering the role of enjoyment as a mediator variable. Gender differences were further examined.
Methods: A descriptive-correlation method was employed in this study. Participants were 600 male and female middle school students from Aliabad Katoul, Golestan province, Iran in 2019. Research tools included Scrabis-Fletcher and Silverman’s Perceived Competence Survey, Enjoyment Questionnaire, and Physical Activity Scale. Structural equation method was used to examine the relationship between variables and analysis of variance (ANOVA) was utilized to find out the gender differences.
Results: The results showed significant relationships between perceived competence and physical activity inside and outside school among boys (P=0.021 and P<0.001, respectively). However, in girls, enjoyment was more effective on the in-school and out-of-school physical activity (P=0.001 and P=0.003, respectively). In addition, boys reported higher perceived competence, more enjoyment, and more physical activity in comparison to girls (P<0.001).
Conclusions: Perceived competence and enjoyment in physical education classes are correlated among boys. In girls, it seems that enjoyment is a more important factor than perceived competence. Physical educators should encourage the perceptions of the students regarding their abilities in physical education classes, in order to improve their participation in physical activities.