Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


Exercise Science

First Advisor

Russell R. Pate


Helping youth achieve the physical activity (PA) guideline of at least 60 minutes of daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) is a key public health objective for the 21st century. Structured PA programs, such as physical education classes, organized sports, and activity classes or lessons, provide opportunities for youth to be physically active. Dance classes are an important example of structured PA programs; however, little is known about the prevalence of dance participation, the quantity of PA in dance classes, and the contribution of dance to overall PA of youth. This dissertation project described dance participation in two samples of youth. The first study described the prevalence of dance participation in U.S. adolescents and determined the contribution of dance to total MVPA. The sample was comprised of 3598 adolescents from the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Youth reported the frequency, duration, and intensity of physical activities performed in the past month. Dance participation prevalence was calculated; among those who reported dance, the contribution of dance to total MVPA was determined. The prevalence of dance participation was significantly higher in girls (34.8%) than boys (8.4%), and Non-Hispanic Black (39.5%) and Hispanic girls (39.5%) than Non-Hispanic White girls (32.6%). Girls had a significantly greater contribution of dance to total MVPA (39.3%) than boys (23.0%). Participants for the second and third studies were 11- to 18-year-old girls enrolled in ballet, jazz, and tap classes in eleven dance studios. The second study described PA levels of girls (n=137) during their participation in structured dance classes and identified factors that were associated with the amount of MVPA provided in those classes. One to four classes per studio were selected for observation. Each girl wore an ActiGraph accelerometer during the selected class and again in the same class the following week. Girls engaged in 9.7 min/h of MVPA, 5.9 min/h of moderate, 3.8 min/h of vigorous, 39.2 min/h of light, and 11.1 min/h of sedentary behavior in dance classes. Jazz/tap classes provided more MVPA than ballet classes, and intermediate level classes provided more MVPA than advanced level classes. Girls with more dance training obtained more MVPA than girls with less dance training. The third study described total PA of girls who participate in structured dance classes, determined the contribution of dance classes to total MVPA, and compared MVPA between a program day and a non-program day. Total PA was assessed with accelerometry for eight consecutive days and girls reported their dance classes. Overall, girls accumulated 25.0 minutes/day of MVPA. Dance classes contributed 28.7% to total MVPA. Girls engaged in significantly more minutes of MVPA on a program day (29.5 ± 1.7) than on a non-program day (18.2 ± 1.7) (P < 0.001). In summary, dance is a prevalent form of physical activity among girls and it accounts for a substantial fraction of their total MVPA. This project provides compelling evidence of the impact of dance participation on physical activity levels of adolescent girls.


© 2010, Jennifer R. O'Neill