Background: There is growing evidence that physical activity (PA) is beneficial for the mental health of young people. One area that has been widely examined is the impact of PA on ‘the self’, which is a term that encompasses a range of specific and related terms (e.g. self-esteem, self-efficacy, self-perceptions). There is evidence that PA is strongly associated with ‘the self’ in childhood and beyond. However, the impact of the specific PA of resistance training (RT) is not yet clear. The purpose of this review was to advance knowledge on the potential of RT for enhancing mental health by examining the effect of RT interventions on ‘the self’ in youth. Methods: This systematic review followed the PRISMA guidelines (PROSPERO registration number CRD42016038365). Electronic literature databases were searched from the year of their inception to October 2018. The search included English language articles that examined the effect of isolated RT on the broad term of ‘the self’ in youth, with participants of school age (5–18 years). Data were extracted using an electronic form by one reviewer with 10% conducted by a second reviewer. The ‘Quality Assessment Tool for Quantitative Studies’ was used to assess the quality and risk of bias and was conducted by two reviewers. Results: From seven peer-reviewed studies, ten data sets were included exploring seven outcomes related to ‘the self’ in participants aged between 10 and 16 years. Four of these studies (including seven data sets) were combined in a meta-analysis, with results from the remaining three studies reported separately. Significant intervention effects were identified for resistance training self-efficacy (Hedges’ g = 0.538, 95% CI 0.254 to 0.822, P < 0.001), physical strength (Hedges’ g = 0.289, 95% CI 0.067 to 0.511, P = 0.011), physical self-worth (Hedges’ g = 0.319, 95% CI 0.114 to 0.523, P = 0.002) and global self-worth (Hedges’ g = 0.409, 95% 0.149 to 0.669, P = 0.002). Although not statistically significant, the effect sizes for the remaining three outcomes were body attractiveness (Hedges’ g = 0.211, 95% CI − 0.031 to 0.454, P = 0.087), physical condition (Hedges’ g = 0.089, 95% CI − 0.238 to 0.417, P = 0.593) and sport competence (Hedges’ g = 0.004, 95% CI − 0.218 to 0.225, P = 0.974). There was variable quality of studies, with just two studies being classified as ‘strong’. Conclusion: This is the first review to synthesise research on the effects of isolated RT interventions on ‘the self’. The findings indicate that RT has a positive impact on some aspects of ‘the self’ in youth. More high-quality studies should be conducted to further investigate this topic. If validated, this type of intervention could have a positive impact on ‘the self’ and ultimately improve the health of individuals not only during childhood but as they progress through life.
- Resistance training