Research Study Abstract

A Comparison of Young Children’s Physical Activity Levels in Physical Education, Recess and Exergaming

  • Presented on May 30, 2013

Purpose Recess and other school-based physical activity (PA) programs are important avenues for school children to participate in PA beyond physical education at school (NASPE, 2006). However, the quantification of the contributions of these programs, as compared with physical education, remains largely unexplored. This study was designed to compare young children’s different intensity PA levels in physical education, recess and exergaming programs.

Methods Participants were 76 first graders (40 girls; Meanage=6.55 yrs) enrolled in a suburban elementary school. In addition to the daily 20-minute recess after lunch, participants attended 75-minute weekly physical education classes and another 75-minute weekly exergaming classes (e.g., Wii Just Dance, Wii Fit). Children’s PA levels were assessed by ActiTrainer accelerometers (ActiGraph Co., Pensacola, FL) for three consecutive sessions in physical education, recess and exergaming, respectively. The independent variable was the program, and the outcome variables were percentages of time spent in sedentary, light PA and moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA).

Results Based on Repeated Measures ANOVAs, there were significant program main effects for sedentary [F(2, 74)=31.38, p<.01], light PA[F(2, 74)=48.93, p<.01], and MVPA[F(2, 74)=30.26, p<.01]. Specifically, children had the highest sedentary time in physical education (64.92%), followed by exergaming (56.33%) and recess (49.48%). However, children displayed significantly higher light PA in exergaming (7.78%) than they did in recess (6.79%), which in turn was higher than in physical education (5.46%). Additionally, children demonstrated the highest MVPA in recess (43.35%), followed by exergaming (35.89%) and physical education (29.61%).

Conclusions The findings suggest that young children generated higher PA levels (light PA and MVPA) in recess and exergaming than they did in physical education. That is, physical education is not the sole vehicle for PA promotion. Other school-based programs, such as recess and exergaming, are essential components of a comprehensive school PA program. Study implications are provided for educators and health professionals.


  • Zan Gao 1
  • David Stodden 2
  • Weihong Ning 2


  • 1

    University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

  • 2

    Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX. (Sponsor: Li Li Ji, FACSM)

Presented at

ACSM 2013 Annual Meeting


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