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Relationship Between Eating Behaviors and Physical Activity Among Primary and Secondary School Students: Results of a Cross-Sectional Study


  • We would like to thank the parents and students who responded to the questionnaire, the school staff members who administered it, and the project officers who provided management. We specially acknowledge the work of doctoral candidate Karine Demers for her support in analyzing and interpreting the data and Olivier Tessier for reviewing the text. Special thanks to the 5 setting organizations who funded the study: Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de l'Estrie, Centre de santé et de services sociaux—Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Sherbrooke, Commission scolaire de la Région-de-Sherbrooke, Québec en Forme, and Ville de Sherbrooke.

Address correspondence to: Pascale Morin, Professor, (, Faculté d'Éducation Physique et Sportive, Université de Sherbrooke, 2500 Boulevard de l'Université, Sherbrooke, Québec, J1K 2R1, Canada.



With a view toward developing concerted efforts in fostering healthy eating habits and a physically active lifestyle among young people, a study was carried out to explore associations between eating behavior and physical activity (PA).


In the school district, questionnaires were completed at home by parents of primary school children (N = 8612) and by secondary school youth (N = 5250) during a break in the schedule. The rates of response were 79% and 83%, respectively. Inferential and descriptive analyses were performed.


The results indicate significant differences between the eating behaviors of young people who engage in 60 minutes of daily PA and those who are sedentary. The physically active children were generally more likely to eat fruit, vegetables, and whole-grain products and to have breakfast (p < .05 among high-school students). The lack of self-confidence (55%) and not enjoying PA (46%) stood out as the greatest obstacles facing adolescents trying to lose weight.


There should be particular actions targeting students in the last half of primary school aimed at developing individual accountability and autonomy with respect to healthy eating and PA. These actions should also consider sex differences and those who have more sedentary lifestyles.