Directly Observed Physical Activity of Year 1 Children during School Class Time: A Cross-Sectional Study

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Providing physical activity opportunities to children throughout the school day may be beneficial for children’s health and learning. Existing practices regarding the frequency, type and context of physical activity opportunities being provided to children in the early years of primary school remains largely unknown. The aim of this study was to observe Year 1 children’s physical activity and its contexts during school class time and identify opportunities to incorporate additional activity. A cross-sectional study was conducted with 34 Year 1 children (20 boys, 14 girls; mean age = 6.36 ± 0.34 years) from one primary school in Queensland, Australia. A modified version of the Observational System for Recording Physical Activity in Children—Elementary School was used to assess children’s physical activity and its contexts during class time. Observational data were collected over a four-week period. The frequencies (and percentages) of intervals of children’s activity observed in sedentary, light and moderate-to-vigorous intensities during different instructional and social contexts and physical settings were recorded and calculated. Pearson’s chi-square test of association was conducted to evaluate whether social context (group composition) was related to incidental physical activity. A total of 5305 observation intervals (i.e., 5 s observation interval followed by a 25 s recording interval) were available for analysis (~44 h of observation). Year 1 children were sedentary for the majority (86%) of observed intervals during school class time. Children spent limited time performing light (12% of intervals) and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (2% of intervals). Organised physical activity observed during class time included physical education/school sport (5.9% of intervals) and classroom-based physical activity (2.8% of intervals). When children completed activities in small groups, they were significantly more likely to engage in incidental physical activity than when they completed activities as a whole class (χ2 = 94.73 p < 0.001). Incorporating movement into academic lessons or during transitions between lessons and classrooms may encourage children to be more active. Incidental physical activity may also be promoted through small group activities. Schools should ideally be encouraged and supported to employ a whole-of-school approach to physical activity promotion, which includes identifying and implementing opportunities for children to be active during class time.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3676
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


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