Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor's Name

Linda Spears-Bunton

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Charmaine DeFrancesco

Second Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Mido Chang

Third Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Thomas Reio

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

committee member


Community Health and Preventative Medicine, Curriculum and Instruction, Exercise Science, Health and Physical Education, Public Health Education and Promotion, Women's Health

Date of Defense



Despite the well-recognized benefits of exercise, Americans are gaining weight in astounding proportions and levels of physical activity are on the decline. The purpose of this study was to investigate a relationship between physical fitness, self-concept and sexual health. There is a dearth of knowledge on this relationship specifically in the context of sex-negative curricula, which is the dominate discourse in the United States.

One hundred and thirty-three participants between the ages of 18 - 50 volunteered for fitness testing and data collection. Physical fitness was assessed through body fat, resting metabolic rate, cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance and flexibility. Self-reported exercise was measured using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire. Self-concept was measured by the Six Factor Self-Concept Scale, which presented a total self-concept score and as six individual concepts of self (likability, morality, task accomplishment, giftedness, power and vulnerability). Additionally, sexual function was measured by Derogatis Interview for Sexual Functioning and presented as both an aggregate score and five separate constructs of sexual functioning (fantasy/cognition, arousal, orgasm, behavior/experience, and drive/desire). Questions pertaining to sexual partners, sex education, and demographic information were also included.

The results of the General Linear Model indicated significant relationships between physical fitness, self-concept and total sexual functioning. The sexual behavior/experience of men was predicted by body fat percentage and flexibility. In women, behavior/experience was predicted by body fat percentage and arousal was predicted by cardiovascular endurance.

Total self-concept was related to muscular endurance. When men were isolated in the analysis, likability was positively related to sexual behavior/experience, and task accomplishment was inversely related to sexual behavior/experience. In women, giftedness was related to cognition/fantasy, arousal, orgasm and total sexual functioning. No relationships were found between physical fitness and the number of sexual partners in men; however, both muscular strength and the power self-concept were significantly related to number of sexual partners in women. As a result of these findings, women may be inclined to exercise to improve arousal and sexual functioning. Furthermore, educators should note the findings of a positive relationship between physical and psychological health and sexual well-being because they provide support for the development and adoption of sex-positive curricula that incorporate potential benefits of sexual activity.





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