In-school and out-of-school physical activity in primary and secondary school children

Christopher J. Gidlow, Tom Cochrane, Rachel Davey, Hannah Smith

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73 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this study was to compare in-school and out-of-school physical activity within a representative sample. Socio-demographic, physical activity, and anthropometric data were collected from a random sample of children (250 boys, 253 girls) aged 3-16 years attending nine primary and two secondary schools. Actigraph GT1M accelerometers, worn for seven days, were used to estimate physical activity levels for in-school (typically 09.00-15.00 h), out-of-school (weekday), and weekend periods. Physical activity as accelerometer counts per minute were lower in school versus out of school overall (in school: 437.2 ± 172.9; out of school: 575.5 ± 202.8; P < 0.001), especially in secondary school pupils (secondary: 321.6 ± 127.5; primary: 579.2 ± 216.3; P < 0.001). Minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity accumulated in school accounted for 29.4 ± 9.8% of total weekly moderate-to-vigorous physical activity overall but varied by sector (preschool: 37.4 ± 6.2%; primary: 33.6 ± 8.1%; secondary: 23.0 ± 9.3%; F = 114.3, P < 0.001). Approximately half of the children with the lowest in-school activity compensated out of school during the week (47.4%) and about one-third at the weekend (30.0%). Overall, physical activity during the school day appears to be lower than that out of school, especially in secondary school children, who accumulate a lower proportion of their total weekly moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at school than younger children. As low in-school activity was compensated for beyond the school setting by less than half of children, promoting physical activity within the school day is important, especially in secondary schools.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1411-1419
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Sports Sciences
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2008
Externally publishedYes


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