Physical Activity Behavior Patterns during School Leisure Time in Children

Chad Smith, James C. Hannon, Timothy A. Brusseau, You Fu, Ryan D. Burns


Optimizing physical activity (PA) in children is paramount to attenuate the incidence of chronic disease and to improve social and cognitive health. Limited research exists examining the observed PA patterns during school leisure times in children from the U.S. The purpose of this study was to examine the observed PA patterns of children during three school leisure times: before school, during lunch, and after school. The SOPLAY instrument was used to observe PA during the three leisure times across six weeks at four elementary schools in the U.S. Observer PA counts were stratified by sex, PA intensity (sedentary, walking, and very active), and leisure time. Multi-level models were employed to examine the effect of leisure time and PA intensity on observer PA counts, adjusting for day and school-level clustering. Lunch displayed the greatest number of counts for sedentary, walking, and very active PA intensities (p < 0.001). In boys, a greater number of observer counts in the very active PA intensity were recorded compared to the sedentary intensity before school (β = 10.34, p = 0.04) and during lunch (β = 15.57, p < 0.001). Girls did not display any differences among the PA intensities within before school and lunch leisure times (p > 0.05). After school displayed the fewest counts for walking and very active PA in both sexes (p < 0.05). An emphasis should be placed on increasing walking and very active PA intensities before school and during lunch in girls and after school in both sexes.

Keywords: after school, before school, lunch, SOPLAY, systematic observation

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