One third of youth in the U.S. are in the overweight and obese range. Many of these youth engage in little physical activity. Obesity in childhood has been linked to impulse control deficiencies and issues with delayed gratification. One under explored area is the link between physical activity level, body mass index (BMI), and impulse control in adolescents. We examined the relationship between obesity, activity level, and impulsivity in adolescents in this cross-sectional study (AAAA).
Forty-six adolescent male participants (M=15.93 years, SD = 0.96,) completed the Consideration of Future Consequences (CFC) scale, and the Kirby Monetary Choice Questionnaire(MCQ) as a measure of delayed gratification. BMI%ile was calculated based on adolescent height and weight. Ten participants were healthy weight and active (Act/Norm), and thirty-six participants were not healthy weight and active (not Act/Norm). For the MCQ, overall k values representing the slope of the discounting curve (money devalued over time) were calculated.
Independent samples t-tests were conducted to determine whether the physically active, normal BMI group differed from the other groups. Moreover, k scores were compared to determine the relationship between BMI%ile, physical activity, and delayed gratification. While the comparisons did not reach statistical significance, there was a trend between impulse control (CFC) and BMI%ile/physical activity groups (p =0.067). No relationship could be determined between delayed gratification, BMI%ile, and physical activity (all p values >0.05).
Certain metrics of impulse control (CFC) might be tied to activity level and weight in adolescents, yet delayed gratification for monetary reward (MCQ) did not show a significant relationship to physical activity level in our sample. This runs counter to intuition, which hold that adolescents who are active with a normal BMI would have statistically greater delayed gratification scores, corresponding to lower k scores.