Research Study Abstract

Contribution of Timetabled Physical Education to Total Physical Activity in Primary School Children: Cross-Sectional Study

  • Published on 09/13/2003

Participants, Methods, and Results We monitored physical activity during waking hours for seven days using accelerometers (Manufacturing Technology, Fort Walton Beach, FL) in 215 children (120 boys and 95 girls aged 7.0-10.5 (mean 9.0) years) from three schools with different sporting facilities and opportunity for physical education in the curriculum. School 1, a private preparatory school with some boarding pupils, had extensive facilities and 9.0 hours a week of physical education in the curriculum. School 2, a village school awarded Activemark gold status for its focus on physical activity, offered 2.2 hours of timetabled physical education a week. School 3, an inner city school with limited sporting provision, offered 1.8 hours of physical education a week. The accelerometer electronically measures clock time, duration and intensity of movement, and is highly reproducible. Compliance was defined as complete recordings over at least four school days and one day of the weekend. Parents completed questionnaires assessing their income on a six point scale.We used analysis of variance to compare means between schools. Least significant difference P values are quoted. A total of 74% (85 boys and 74 girls) complied with their accelerometers; compliant and non-compliant children did not differ in body mass index (kg/m2) or household income. As expected, pupils in School 1 recorded the most activity in school time but this was barely twice that of pupils in Schools 2 or 3 (both P < 0.001) despite timetabling more than four times the amount of physical education (figure). Surprisingly, total physical activity between schools was similar because children in Schools 2 and 3 did correspondingly more activity out of school than children at School 1 (both P < 0.001). Among the boys, total activity was higher in School 2 than in School 1 and School 3 (both P = 0.02) with mean (standard deviation) units of activity a week of 39.1 (6.8), 34.7 (7.7), and 33.8 (7.8). In general, girls did less physical activity a week than boys (32.7 (6.8) v 35.9 (7.7) units; P = 0.007), but their patterns according to school were the same. Mean household incomes were 5.5, 4.3, and 2.7 units in the three schools (all P < 0.001).

Link to Abstract:


British Medical Journal