Research Study Abstract

Hotspots for Schoolyard Physical Activity – Using GPS, Accelerometry and GIS

  • Added on June 15, 2012

Purpose A number of recent studies have found associations between the characteristics of schoolyards and the level of PA of schoolchildren using the schoolyards. Based on these findings, it seems likely that making schoolyards more attractive will help to increase the total amount of PA among schoolchildren. Before starting our intervention study, we carried out a pilot study with the objective to describe activity patterns and identify hotspots for physical activity on 6 schoolyards varying in size and content, located in different types of neighborhoods.

Methods 745 children, 6-16 years old, enrolled at six schools were asked to wear an accelerometer (ActiGraph GT3X) and a GPS (Qstarz BT-Q1000X) for 5 schooldays to determine their level of activity and movement patterns.GPS and accelerometer data were compiled using the Physical Activity Location Measurement System (PALMS), developed by the Center for Wireless & Population Health Systems at the University of California, San Diego. ArcGIS software was used to combine PALMS output with high precision maps of the 6 schoolyards. For each schoolyard activity hotspots were identified.

Results Artificial grass or rubber multi courts, lawn areas, grass slopes and other more natural elements were associated with schoolyard physical activity. Playground equipment was less popular for physical activity. Our results also show age, gender and time differences.

Conclusions More natural elements, as well as lawn or court areas that can be used by groups, seem to be the most important elements for activity in schoolyards whereas playground equipment seems less important.